Friday, November 11, 2016

Powers That Be (1993)

Powers that Be is the first team up of Anne McCaffrey with Elisabeth Anne Scarborough, and the first book of the Petaybee SF series.

An injured Yanaba Maddock is sent to Petaybee for recuperation. In this fairly fluffy SF book, think Northern Exposure meets Ireland in Alaska, she find a bit of adventure, romance, Innuit culture, and the usual cast of McCaffrey idiot villains. In stock SF form, the natives are right, the intruders are idiots, and nobody can talk to each other to actually work out what's going on.

Looking at the cover price of $20 twenty years ago, I'm glad that I didn't pay the price. It's a fun paperback read, but it just doesn't rise to premium levels.

The collaboration usually goes well between the two authors. I think that Scarborough brings a smoothness and humanity to the series that McCaffrey often lacked. Scarborough also brought her knowledge of northwestern America and its people, both their attitude and traditions, which provide the setting and background for the natives. The great thing about using real cultures is that you really don't need to make much up.

I often found the characters hastily realized. At times, too many characters were simply introduced too quickly. They weren't bad, but I really didn't get the time to care about them.

Yana, the lead character, doesn't do very much at all. She shows up, hacks a lung up, gets an investigation mission, hangs out, and doesn't seem to do very much otherwise. Her main power seems to be that she's personable, which in this book seems like a superpower. Her other main power seems to be that she's not an idiot.

All in all, the book's not a bad read. Once you get going, it'll keep your brain occupied. The plot's enough to hold together and get you to the other end. If you're snowed it, it might even be right nice.