Short works

Books : reviews

Margaret Ball.
The Shadow Gate.
Baen. 1991

rating : 3.5 : worth reading

(Elves; restoring lost magic; modern people in fantasy land)

Margaret Ball.
No Earthly Sunne.
Baen. 1994

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 24 December 1996

A tale of Elizabethan magick, Fairie, the magical power of song, and computer programming!

1594, England: Wicked Kit Arundel is writing a Masque, in the hopes of gaining the knowledge of the universe he desires. But instead, he is taken by the Fairie, leaving behind his distraught fiancee, Eleanor. 1994, Texas: Ellen Ainsley used to sing Elizabethan music, but she gave that up after she fainted during a performance and suffered a breakdown because of the strange 'memories' the music evoked of another life as Eleanor. Now she avoids music, and instead is a computer programmer on an ambitious AI project. The strangely beautiful Paien appears, to persuade Ellen to sing in a recreation of the newly-discovered Masque. Ostensibly, this will help Kit return to the mortal world, but the ever-deceitful Fairie have an ulterior motive, that will destroy the mortal world forever. Ellen has to stop their plans, without losing Kit again.

The Elizabethan tale and the modern story are woven together well, working up to their joint climax; an early flash forward of the Elizabethan tragedy means you are waiting for the parallel modern one. There is a pleasing contrast between the meek and submissive Eleanor, a well-behaved Elizabethan lady, and the assertive modern Ellen. Also, the contrast between Texas and modern England is fairly amusing: most of the current-day English scenes are well-drawn -- especially the weather -- except for a couple of jarring notes (not all English cars are wheezing little Morris Minors, and shillings had certainly disappeared by 1994).

The various plans go sufficiently awry to keep you from guessing more than a chapter or two ahead the details of what is going on. I felt more could have been made of the computer programming side of things, to balance all the Elizabethan songs and poetry, but that just reflects my personal interests.

Margaret Ball.
Lost in Translation.
Baen. 1995

rating : 4 : passes the time

(Modern people in fantasy land)

Anne McCaffrey, Margaret Ball.
Corgi. 1997

rating : 6 : unfinishable
review : 7 July 1999

Three asteroid miners discover an escape capsule containing a baby alien. They rescue her, and Acorna grows up -- rapidly -- as a humanoid with hoofs, fur, and a horn that can purify air and water and heal ills. Soon they are pursued by all sorts of people, for all sorts of reasons.

I find this poorly characterised (the three miners are indistinguishable apart from a few offensively stereotypical characteristics -- we don't see much of Acorna herself -- the stupid bureaucrat and the evil scientist are less than one-dimensional). There are too many coincidences used to drive the plot (the miners are being pursued for something they did in the past, and for Acorna, and for what the people did who originally owned the ship whose ID they appropriated to lose the other pursuits, and for Acorna by someone else) -- one of the key people who helps them early on turns up again later in a different key role [I know I support the theory that there are only 400 people in the world -- 200 who you know, and 200 "extras" to provide background -- because this is the only way to explain why you keep running into people you know in the strangest places -- but this is a galaxy full of planets, for ghu's sake]). And the story just isn't engaging. So I said the Eight Deadly Words, on page 198.

Margaret Ball.
Baen. 1996

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 20 June 1998

Write what you know, they say. Well, Margaret Ball knows mathematics, fantasy, and SF conventions. And that's what we get, mixed up in a tale of warriors, wizards and fundamentalist preachers in the American school system. Rivakonneva is a famous Warrior in Dazau, but is currently living in a small Texan town on the world of the Paper-Pushers, in order to get her daughter a good education. But evil wizard Mikhalleviko has followed her, and joined up with Bob Boatright in his Holy crusade to rid the world of un-Christian literature -- romances and science fiction. The only problem is that Mikh's wizardry is removing books from our world by sending their main characters to Dazau, which is being flooded with 2-dimensional heroines and generic dragons. Riva has to sort out her problems in both worlds.

All entertaining stuff, especially the educationalists reactions to Riva's direct action approach to problem solving. The scenes in Drazau as the protagonists meet various characters from the famous books transported there are fun. And the description of the panel at SalamanderCon is wonderful. I found the plot rather choppy, bouncing between several points of view, Riva's in the first person. But even so, an amusing light read.