Thursday, March 13, 2008

EARLY REVIEW: The Stars Down Under

The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald
ISBN: 0-7653-1644-7; March 18, 2008 by Tor Books

Science Fiction and Fantasy genres overlap in many ways, and none more clearly than in this second book of Sandra McDonald's. The plot threads that I most strongly hoped she would develop from the first book, The Outback Stars, are the focus of this second novel in a series.

The story is a mosaic of hard science and myth, wonders and the ordinary, aliens and regular people. I love the way McDonald writes - a combination of matter-of-fact space travel and unexpected intrusions by powers beyond the control of any human being. I love the way her characters struggle to keep their plans and their lives on track in the midst of being thrust into events that change everything.

Reading McDonald, I sometimes have a sense of magical realism as done by Gaiman or by Charles de Lint. Once in a while the science under the phenomenon is revealed but most often we are left with tantalizing questions, which may or may not be answered farther along in the story.

I like the way McDonald wraps up the story threads in a satisfying conclusion, but still leaves enough openings for the next book. I suspect she could easily write the same novel in twice the length and keep me interested. At 336 pages, The Stars Down Under was over too soon. There is no doubt I'll pre-order the next one in the series.

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