In the Details

Happily Ever After Isn’t.

I propose this as an alternate title for The Summer Queen by Joan D. Vinge.

I think I pointed out that Tangled Up in Blue and World’s End are smaller stories elaborating on background events in The Snow Queen and The Summer Queen, respectively.  World’s End in particular is a very important story to the series as a whole, but The Summer Queen both starts before it and ends after it.  By a long shot.

Our heroes from The Snow Queen in particular are adults and move onto a new phase of their lives; new careers, new homes, being parents, etc.  And the story takes place on several worlds at once.  New characters are also introduced, of course, and the plot gets rather convoluted at times when you consider how many hands are attemtping to stir the pot.

It’s worth noting that Tammis Dawntreader, the son of the Summer Queen herself, is probably the first pansexual character I’ve noticed in a book.  The boy likes his sex with all the people.  Sparks Dawntreader is hinted to be bisexual, or at least open to more than heterosexual relations, but I always read that to be more of a “gaming, drugs, and sex” type thing, where he doesn’t necessarily do it because that’s what he genuinely wants.  Sparks is a rather dark character at times, so it’s hard to get a read on what he prefers.  Tammis strikes me as more genuine and far more innocent.

There is a lot going on in The Summer Queen and it covers about eighteen years of real time.  Politics, religion, and shadowy circumnavigation are the least of it, because it all starts at the cover.

I haven’t really spoken about the covers too much with this series, aside from the strange black/white issue of World’s End and a photo of my collection of books titled The Snow Queen.  That’s because it’s only my copy of The Summer Queen which has a cover worth mentioning, showcasing the amazing art of Michael Whelan.  The man’s attention to detail is almost unreal, and he’s done quite a number of recognizable covers in sci-fi/fantasy.  But it’s the pair of The Snow Queen and The Summer Queen that I cannot stop staring at, so much so that I made them my computer background more than two years ago.  He’s been doing this for forty years or more, and is still producing amazing work to this day.

vingequeens

On the left, the Snow Queen Arienrhod.  On the right, the Summer Queen Moon Dawntreader.  (Funny how we never do find out Arienrhod’s shipname.  She obviously has one because everyone on the planet does, but some are actual names of the colony ships bringing humans to Tiamat, and others are just last names.  Except that Tiamatans also add “Winter” or “Summer” at the end, after the shipname, to indicate which of the two groups they spring from.)  Anyway, you can see that the details on these two images are exquisite.  Masks are used in the books for the Festivals of Change, so it’s fitting, but there are so many details in them that you can pick up only by reading the books.  Arienrhod showcases her Starbuck, the mers, technology, Sparks and his flute…etc.  Moon shows off the mers, her companions, the triskle of the sibyls, Survey, and more.  The longer you look, the more you see, and I love it.  Even now I’m still noticing more details every time I examine these images.

Once I knew The Summer Queen existed, it took me a few years to track it down.  I’m not entirely certain why, but I’ve only ever seen it for sale once in person.  My friend had taken me to an odd little used bookstore off the Brown Line in the city.  The place was…strange.  Organization consisted of books being piled in separate nooks according to genre.  By sheerest luck, I found an old library copy of The Summer Queen in the sci-fi/fantasy corner.  Of course it was also a cash only place, but I was happy to pay close to cover price for it.

I always have mixed emotions reading this book.  It is nowhere near as engaging as World’s End, though it builds strongly off of the events of that novel.  It’s a book that I put down a lot as I’m reading it…and not just because it’s a library hardcover and rather heavy.  There’s a lot that I am reluctant to read, though very little that I actively dislike.  And yet…the book resolves itself and the series.  And I do greatly enjoy the ending.  Still, it doesn’t resonate as strongly for me as other books do, probably because I have a hard time getting into it.

I did stop by the library last week to pick up a hold, but I think for my shoulder’s sake I’ll find something a little lighter to read first.

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