In case you didn’t know, Joan D. Vinge’s The Snow Queen is the first book in a series. So, you can easily guess what I’m going to be reading the next couple days. Today’s volume was Tangled Up in Blue. I can’t really say it’s the second book. It was the last of the series that I had to track down, and it takes place within the span of time covered by The Snow Queen. In fact, it covers a short period of less than a year near the beginning of the other book.
I wouldn’t recommend reading Tangled Up in Blue first though. It’s The Snow Queen that sets the stage, introducing us to the city of Carbuncle on the world of Tiamat. Even to some of the key characters, like Sergeant BZ Gundhalinu and Inspector Geia Jerusha PalaThion. And, since this is my second time reading through Tangled Up in Blue and my first reading it within a better context of the series, I can see the plots and devices that are being set up for later in the series. Not to say that The Snow Queen doesn’t do similar work, but those pieces aren’t nearly as much of a focal point as the relationship between Moon and Sparks, the motivation which defines the book and original fairy tale.
The Snow Queen tells us that Carbuncle means two things: a valuable gem and an a festering sore, and that the city by that name is both at once. We see both sides in the first book, but this one dives much deeper into the latter. The underworld of Carbuncle is vast and murky and filled with all the nightmares sentient species can imagine, and the book doesn’t even go that deep into it.
One thing I should point out is that Joan D. Vinge writes strong female characters. The Snow Queen herself is one, Moon is another, Inspector PalaThion a third. And it’s the Police Inspector who deals with the most sexism on a daily basis. She’s from a planet where women have clearly defined traditional roles…and most of the force seems to be from that same planet. Needless to say, she fights an uphill battle every day. PalaThion is not one of the main characters in Tangled Up in Blue the way she was in The Snow Queen, but she is still present and her value is not diminished in any way, despite the fact that the main characters in this volume are male.
Overall, Tangled Up in Blue is nothing special. It adds to the world of The Snow Queen without detracting from it, but there’s nothing particularly noteworthy or compelling about it. Yes, it does set up future plot points, but as I discovered when I first set out to read the rest of the series, you can do without it. It is not a bad book at all. Just…your average science fiction tale of a police officer getting in over his head on an alien planet.