________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 37 . . . . May 25, 2018


Tangled Planet.

Kate Blair.
Toronto, ON: DCD/Cormorant Books, 2017.
259 pp., trade pbk. & HTML, $14.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-77086-504-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77086-505-1 (HTML).

Grades 5-10 / Ages 10-15.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

***½ /4



I need to take baby steps on Beta. Get comfortable with it. I've done well for my first time back here since Maia's death. I can get used to the planet. I'm sure I can.

I'm lucky to be here, I know. Lucky to be alive now. Lucky to be part of the generation that gets to colonize Beta. Four hundred years of ancestors stretch out behind me. People who lived and died on the
Venture so I could be here, on a new world.

It's great. It really is. It's just a lot to get used to. And that's okay. We still have the
Venture to go home to. She's safely in orbit above us.

For now.

Some four centuries ago and with the goal of colonizing a far distant planet, Alpha Earth had launched Venture on its long journey. The vessel has now reached its destination, Beta Earth, and, as Venture orbits the planet, some two hundred people, almost half Venture's complement, have descended to Beta's surface and are in the process of establishing a forest settlement, an action that is leading to dissension amongst the crew members. Obviously, those who have arrived at Beta Earth, the descendants of the people who originally crewed Venture, have never known any life but the confined one that they have experienced aboard the ship. While everyone recognizes that the sole purpose of their existence is to fulfill the long-ago established mission of inhabiting Beta Earth, what divides the crew is the question of how quickly they should be abandoning the perceived relative safety of Venture for the unknown dangers of Beta Earth.

      The push to move forward immediately is being led by Yuri, Head of Agricology, who argues that any delay will cause the loss of an entire growing season. With Yuri's workers on Beta, housing needs to be provided by Construction, and both of those specializations require the services of Protection and Medics. Genetics also become involved as its members are responsible for creating biodiversity on Beta while Engineering is needed for equipment repair.

      The story's narrator, Ursa, 17-years-old in Alpha Earth years but only 13 by Beta years, is one of those who strongly favours a much slower pace to abandoning the Venture. The daughter of a former captain of the ship, Ursa is an engineer with an intimate knowledge of Venture's workings, and her comfortable familiarity with Venture's confines causes her to feel most ill at ease on the open surface of Beta, her disquiet in part being enhanced by her best friend's accidental drowning on Beta. Ursa's coming upon a mutilated body and her belief that she saw a creature in the woods just prior to spotting the cadaver only reinforces her conviction that the rate of settlement needs to be slowed. A mystery element enters this science fiction tale as Ursa must uncover whether or not the creature she thought she saw really exists on this planet, which was supposedly without its own fauna, or, instead, if the death was actually murder and someone's attempt to sabotage settling Beta?

      In writing science fiction, a key requirement is worldbuilding, the author's ability to create a believable fictional world, and, in this respect, Blair has done so with great skill. Blair also provides an historical overview of the Venture's voyage, and she unobtrusively provides readers with information about the crew's social structure, explaining, for example, why men have a prima and a secunda wife or how Exit explains the absence of the elderly.

      Science fiction fans will definitely enjoy joining Ursa aboard Venture and on Beta Earth.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB, Alpha Earth.

To comment on this title or this review, contact cm@umanitoba.ca.

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