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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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

Joan D. Vinge won the Hugo Award for her big 1980 novel The Snow Queen, set far in the future on the planet Tiamat, source of the immortality serum called the Water of Life. Two more novels followed -- World's End (1984) and The Summer Queen (1991) -- and those seemed to neatly round out a trilogy. Tiamat was a primitive planet, only valued for the Water of Life, and only accessible to the rest of the human-colonized Hegemony planets during the "Winter" period of its orbit. The original trilogy eventually told the story of great changes for both Tiamat and the rest of the Hegemony. The three novels were quite enjoyable, and all three differed greatly in style and structure.

Now Vinge has chosen to return to Tiamat for a sort of pendant to the original trilogy. Tangled Up in Blue is set parallel with the earlier part of The Snow Queen. Indeed, if reading the Tiamat books in internal chronological order, it would have to come first. However, I'd say it's best left to last: it isn't spoiled by reading the other books, but there are some things revealed here that might affect the reading of, in particular, The Summer Queen.

This book is about the Hegemony police force in the Tiamat capital city of Carbuncle. This police force is charged with keeping dangerous galactic technology out of Tiamatan hands, as well as other more traditional police duties. Nyx LaisTree is a young policeman from the planet Newhaven. On the night of his nameday he and his brother participate in an illegal raid on a warehouse which is a conduit for passing illegal tech to the Tiamatans. But something goes horribly wrong, and almost all the raiders, including Nyx' brother, are killed, leaving only Nyx alive.

Upon his recovery, LaisTree realizes that his superiors are after something they think he knows about the raid, but he can't remember anything. Before long, the stiff Police Sergeant BZ Gundhalinu (a major character in the original trilogy) is involved, and so is a "whore with a heart of gold" -- a Tiamatan named Devony Seaward. Devony is a spy for the Snow Queen, but she finds herself falling for LaisTree. Soon the three of them, unsure if they can even trust each other, are forced into an alliance against unknown enemies -- possibly even higher-ups in the Police force, but certainly underworld figures controlled by the mysterious man called the Source. And into the mix steps the offworld woman Mundilfoere, who seems to want the same thing the Snow Queen wants, and LaisTree's superiors want, and the Source wants.

All plays out in a fast-moving and enjoyable fashion. The story is a good read, though its reliance on coincidence and such clichés as Devony and LaisTree falling instantly in love make it a bit contrived at times. Also, the whole thing is somewhat uneasily shoehorned into the existing structure of the trilogy. This turns out to be a story about something that gains great importance in The Summer Queen, but that importance is not clear to anyone who reads only this book. Which is to say, the mystery here is something of a McGuffin chase, absent knowledge of the events of The Summer Queen. At the same time, this book's use of, in particular, Gundhalinu and Mundilfoere, major characters in The Summer Queen, constrains both the author's choices and the reader's expectations (for those who have read the earlier book). In summary, I'd rate this as enjoyable light reading, an interesting addition to a fine series, but not an essential book.

Copyright © 2000 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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