The Snow Queen – Joan D. Vinge

About the book
The imperious Winter colonists have ruled theplanet Tiamat for 150 years, deriving wealth from the slaughter of the seamers. But soon the galactic stargate will close, isolating Tiamat, and the150-year reign of the Summer primitives will begin. All is not lost ifArienrhod, the ageless, corrupt Snow Queen, can destroy destiny with an act ofgenocide. Arienrhod is not without competition as Moon, a young Summer-tribesibyl, and the nemesis of the Snow Queen, battles to break a conspiracy thatspans space.
448pages (paperback)
Wow,my first review in a week. I’m really impressed with how lazy I’ve become.
The Snow Queen is a book that has beenrecommended to me by several other book reviewers. It took me a while to findit, as it’s currently out of print. If my research is correct (which it isn’talways), the author wasn’t writing for a while due to a car accident shesuffered several years ago. I’m not sure if that’s why many of her books arecurrently out of print, or if there are other reasons. She is now recoveredenough and started writing again in 2007.
In1981 Vinge won the Hugo award for TheSnow Queen. Vinge’s writing is top notch, often seeming poetic with herdescriptions. Her world is beautifully crafted, as well as the social systemswithin it. Every detail is thought out and described, almost overly so. Thethought Vinge gave to the background of her societies, and the histories thataffect their current traditions and ways of life are nothing short offascinating. Furthermore, the science fiction elements of the book are almostperfectly balanced with certain, almost primitive cultures and influences. It’squite well done, and absolutely breathtaking with the scope and depth of theworld building.
However,that being said, The Snow Queen tookquite a while to grab me. The cultures and world, while masterfully done, dotake quite a bit of time to understand and make sense of. Furthermore, I oftenfelt as though the plot was trying to get somewhere, but never quite making anyreal progress in that direction. These two things mixed together ensured thatmuch of my experience with The Snow Queenwas wrapped in a level of frustration that never quite went away. If the readerpushes through these slow parts of the book, they may feel as though it wasworth it in the end.
Vingedoesn’t create any one-dimensional characters, which is in the book’s favor.While some are more frustrating than others, she takes her time to craftcharacters that fit her world and cultures. However, perhaps where some of thecharacters grate on my nerves is the angst that seems to fill the book.Furthermore, The Snow Queen seems tobe an almost feminist book for Vinge. It’s refreshing to read about strongfemale protagonists in a science fiction book, though some of her concepts seemto be a bit outdated, like the female police officer who spends an obsceneamount of time lamenting about how her job is a man’s job.
The Snow Queen is an interesting read inthe fact that it truly is a solid work of science fiction with some trulyincredible world building, but the almost agonizingly slowly moving plot andsome frustrating character choices really do affect the work as a whole. The Snow Queen isn’t a quick read, ittook real effort and determination for me to read and puzzle my way through it,and it wasn’t until almost the end that I actually decided I cared aboutanything that was happening. While others may have a different experience withthis work, it should be noted that this book might require the reader tostruggle a bit before they feel fully involved with it.
Despitethe flaws of the work, I did find myself amazingly interested in the backgroundof the world and the cultures Vinge created. On the whole, I found myself moreinterested in the background than in the plot itself. The book ended with me wishingthat Vinge had spent more time with the background and other side cultures thanthe individuals that took up the main stage of the work.
Itshould be noted that this book is very highly rated, and it seems like mostpeople who read it absolutely love it, so my perspective seems to be a minorityone. While The Snow Queen was anenjoyable book, I didn’t find the effort it took for me to actually finish itreally worth it. The incredible world and wonderful prose are perfectlybalanced by frustrating characters, some outdated feminist themes, and anagonizingly slow buildup. While this is a solid science fiction work, Iwouldn’t, by any means, classify it as groundbreaking.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.