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Elizabeth Bear
Bantam Spectra, 432 pages

Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear shares a birthday with Frodo and Bilbo Baggins. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and grew up in central Connecticut. She currently lives in the Mojave Desert near Las Vegas, Nevada, but she's trying to escape. Elizabeth Bear is her real name, but not all of it.

Elizabeth Bear Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

Politics, intrigue, spy games, genetic engineering, love affairs, betrayals... lions and tigers and Bears, oh my.

This is a beautifully designed universe -- with a few flaws, to be sure, but then all self-respecting universes ought to come with built-in flaws because otherwise they would be less than believable. For instance, I have to admit that the odd geographical naming system of the ladies of New Amazonia started out by bugging me in the beginning, but it kind of grew on me, and even started entertaining me by the end of the book.

Carnival is something different from Elizabeth Bear, yet again -- the author of Hammered and Worldwired is not the same as the author of Blood and Iron is not the same as the author of Carnival -- and one has to stop and admire the sheer scope of creativity evidenced here. Carnival is a novel of social science fiction, something built on a potentially hard SF basis which segues into something that Ursula K. Le Guin might have tried if she were writing this sort of thing. It's an ambitious novel, and by and large it succeeds -- but there are a few points where it missed, where things seem to have brushed past one another and went their separate ways without stopping to exchange necessary information. I liked the "Dragon" presence, the taste of alien in the potent brew of what it means to be human -- but I don't think he was totally given his due. I liked the culture clash between the outsider males and the matriarchal New Amazonia, but I think that there were unplumbed depths there. It's as though, every now and then, there was an authorial awareness that feet were no longer touching the bottom of the story's pool, accompanied by a retreat to a slightly shallower area which nevertheless had the advantage of feeling solid underfoot. Part of this backpedalling, I feel, is the book's Epilogue. I would have LIKED it to have ended where it ended, without the Epilogue, it gave me a nice poignant shiver, a small sigh, a sense of there being no such thing as a free lunch and that sometimes we are called upon to make sacrifices for the Greater Good. Instead, we get handed a Hollywood ending -- an epilogue of Happily Ever After. It isn't even a long epilogue -- it's barely a page -- but it gives me the sense of an "uh-oh" moment -- "let's get back to a place where we can stand".

It could have stretched further -- but it is, nonetheless, a strong book and a solid read. It might make a jaw-droppingly good movie, come to think of it, even without the Epiloguish ending to it all. And I look forward to seeing where Elizabeth Bear will take us next.

Copyright © 2007 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves." When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Her international success, The Secrets of Jin Shei, has been translated into ten languages worldwide, and its follow-up, Embers of Heaven, is coming out in 2006. She is also the author of the fantasy duology The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days, and is currently working on a new YA trilogy to be released in the winter of 2006.

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