Kalyanii reviews Trouble and Her Friends By Melissa Scott


Within an inventory of my virtues, I guarantee that patience will not be listed as one. Thus, had I not been relegated to bed for a week in order to ride out a nasty virus, chances are that I would have abandoned Trouble and Her Friends within the first fifty pages.  However, lacking the energy or even the motivation to venture toward my bookshelf for a different title, I stuck with the novel ‘til the end – and now feel extremely fortunate for that fact.

After Evans-Tildale passes, Cerise returns home to discover her apartment half-empty and her lover, Trouble, nowhere to be found. Trouble, after all, had made it quite clear that if the new law meant to police the net were put into effect, she would be leaving the shadows. It was far too dangerous to continue “cracking” (hacking) within an environment controlled by real-world authorities.

Three years later, Cerise and Trouble as well as most of their friends, have abandoned their activities, relegating themselves to working within the “bright lights,” often as consultants or syscops themselves. Yet, after Cerise’s company, Multiplane, is hacked by someone calling themselves Trouble, whose immature and sloppily destructive style shows him as an imposter, the crew finds themselves reunited in an effort to stop the one who has upset the net and usurped Trouble’s name.

There is no denying that, especially within the first half, the novel moves so very slowly due to the amount of detail provided. Yet, what kept me going was my desperate need to know what would transpire once Cerise and Trouble reunited against a common enemy. The strength of their connection remained palpable in spite of Trouble’s absence, yet the nuances of their relationship were revealed without any of the professions of love that typically send me running.

Both Trouble and Cerise are, after all, incredibly competent hackers. They’re simply not wired for overt sentimentality, well aware that allowing emotion to override intellect may well prove deadly. Not only does this make for a much more interesting story, but that coolness comes across as incredibly sexy, especially as worn by Trouble, herself.

Published in 1994, Trouble and Her Friends engages with the virtual world in a manner that reflects the time. It actually rendered me a bit nostalgic for the early days of the Internet – minus the pay-by-the-minute usage rates. However, given the way in which the complexity of the plot was executed, the badass and incredibly likable protagonists and the subtly philosophical undertones, Trouble and Her Friends remains far from obsolete. Rather, it just might be considered something of a cyberpunk classic.

Allysse reviews Burning Bright by Melissa Scott

Burning Bright is a story about power struggle set in a science-fiction universe in which two different races co-exist – the Human and the Hsai – but are battling for power. Burning Bright is the name of the planet in which pilot Quinn Lioe docks her ship for repairs which makes her spend a few days on the planet. This planet is an important commercial link between the Human Republic and the Hsai Empire, but it is also a centre of activity for the Game. Lioe is a designer of scenarios for this Game and is aiming to spend her few days on the planet to launch her newest one. However her interest in the Game soon involves her in the power struggle that is happening between Humans and Hsai.

The plot of the novel is complex and the author takes the time to settle the characters, the places, and the plots. At the beginning we feel all the characters are connected via one another but we can’t quite see how they are all going to move towards the same point. The novel being science-fiction the author has to explain to the reader all the aspects of the world she creates and Melissa Scott does it very well. All the explanations come from the thoughts and actions of the characters and nothing feels forced on the reader. We gather all the information we need from the characters at the same time than the plots moves forward. Nothing ever feels unnecessary and we dive easily into the world created by Melissa Scott. We slowly discover the game of power and the role of the different characters and as we turn the pages everything falls into its right place making the picture clear for the reader. It is a very gripping book. Once you start reading it you want to know more, you want to discover who’s who and who does what and why. This is another strong point of the novel: its characters. All the main characters are fully developed and have complex personalities. They are not black and white with a single motivation to do good or evil. They are shades of grey, with a past that has modelled them towards a future they are trying to build for themselves. Some of the characters become caught in the plot without wanting to and Melissa Scott transcribes very well their reactions and feelings.

So far I haven’t talked about why I picked this novel to review for The Lesbrary. In the author’s world, the characters have fluid sexuality. It’s not something that is questioned or even important, they just sometimes fall in love with men or with women and it’s just the same. In regards to The Lesbrary, the pilot Quinn Lioe has an affair with the docker and gamer Roscha. I liked the reality of their story which begins as a one night stand but evolves into something more complicated as the story goes on. I especially liked the subtle treatment given to it by the author which made their story feels very real. The only point I didn’t understand well was their love scene. It’s not that it was badly written but it felt unnecessary. Every scene of the novel brings information to the reader about the world, the plot, or the characters but this scene didn’t bring any useful information at all. I think the scene could have been cut and the story wouldn’t have suffered for it. But that’s really my only negative point about the book.

In her novel Melissa Scott succeeds in creating very interesting and deep characters as well as a very intriguing plot, in a rich and complex setting, that goes at a pace that keeps the reader hooked to her words. This is a very good read and I would highly recommend it.