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Tangled Up In Blue
Joan D. Vinge
Tor Books, 240 pages

Tangled Up In Blue
Joan D. Vinge
Joan D. Vinge was born in 1948 in Baltimore, Maryland. In college, she studied art but changed to anthropology, receiving a B.A. from San Diego State University, with highest honours. Her first story was "Tin Soldier" which appeared in Orbit 14 in 1974. Her story, "Eyes of Amber," won the 1977 Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novelette and her novel The Snow Queen won the 1981 Hugo Award for Best SF Novel. Her novel Psion was named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association and Return Of The Jedi Storybook was the #1 Bestseller on the New York Times Book Review List and the bestselling hardcover book of 1983. Currently she is working on Ladysmith, the first in a series of prehistorical novels set in Europe. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, editor Jim Frenkel, and two children.

Joan D. Vinge Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Tangled Up in Blue
SF Site Review: Tangled Up in Blue

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

Nyx LaisTree and his brother Staun are police officers in the rough port city of Carbuncle, on the planet Tiamat. Frustrated by their inability to enforce smuggling laws because of corrupt authorities, a bunch of cops organize vigilante warehouse raids on shady operations. But one night a raid goes terribly wrong.

When Tree wakes in hospital he discovers that he is the only survivor -- his brother and the other off duty cops are dead. Worse, he is embroiled in a lethal intrigue involving a mysterious group called the Survey, the Snow Queen herself, and perhaps even senior officers in the police force. All of them want to know what happened at the warehouse and they think Tree is lying when he says he can't remember.

Joan D. Vinge does a good job with her characters in this book, especially Tree, who staggers through the novel half stunned with grief for his brother, Staun. His raw anguish and the bleak situation in which Tree finds himself gives the book a grim edge which is only partially leavened by a pleasant (if improbable) romance between Tree and a high-priced courtesan who wears a "full body sensenet" that allows her to change appearance at will.

Tree also finds himself forging an uncomfortable alliance with Sergeant Gundahlinu, a high caste officer with an inflexible dedication to rules. As is inevitable in the mismatched cop partner formula, their differences are ultimately less important than their commitment to the finding the truth.

Tangled Up in Blue is set in the same universe as Vinge's Hugo-award winning novel The Snow Queen (1980), and the plot is complex, especially those elements involving the Survey (think of a cross between the CIA and rogue freemasons). Approaching Tangled Up in Blue without having read the other books, I found that there were some background details that didn't make much sense to me, such as how the low-tech ruler of a backwater planet could possibly control access to a genuine source of immortality.

Still, the novel stands on its own. My partner, Clint, found Tree's grief tiresomely unremitting, but I found it credible and effective as a focus and motivation for a protagonist. This is a solid book, with eye-pleasing cover art by Michael Whelan.

Copyright © 2002 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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