Posts Tagged ‘Niven/Pournelle’


Joe Occhipinti, Strangers in the Gale: Children of the Three Suns, Book 1

I must admit at the get-go that I offer no pretense of being a bona fide literary critic.  If there are any pretensions of competence remaining, the most valid one may be that I’ve spent over half a century reading in this particular genre.  And akin to the fact that owning a large number of very cheap cars in my teenage/early twenties period has given me a residual ability to diagnose car problems by ear, reading shelf upon shelf of both good and bad sci-fi and fantasy has provided a generous database to differentiate one from the other.  Again from my formative years, I recall an overused catchphrase that could apply here: “I may not know art, but I know what I like.”  And writing good science fiction is, of course, an art as well as a craft.

Strangers in the Gale is an ambitious and intriguing novel, combining two popular themes.  Rebellion of the virtuous few against an oppressive government has drawn great stories from the imaginations of a myriad of authors and screenwriters from Heinlein to Collins, while also happening to be the subject of a goodly percentage of current headlines and network news bites.  And the interaction between human inter-planetary colonists and indigenous life forms is the subject of at least as many “rollicking good tales,” albeit without as many real-time analogs.  This book evokes some of the best examples of the Niven/Pournelle colony world collaborations, combined with the sort of imaginative flash and stand-out character development epitomized by masters like Varley and Zelazney.  The interpersonal relationships of the protagonists quickly become quite complex and conflicted, which is where the best stories spring from.

Carefully avoiding a “spoiler,” it can still be said that the threads of the plot as narrated from multiple viewpoints weave together to finally provide a finish that leaves the reader eagerly awaiting the promised second installment of the trilogy when the possibilities contained in the culminating Message begin to be realized.

Kudos indeed to Mr. Occhipinti.  Chaz Walton

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