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Karin Lowachee
Warner Aspect, 432 pages

Karin Lowachee
Karin Lowachee's family moved from Guyana, South America to near Toronto, Ontario when she was about 2 years old. After university, she tried various jobs unrelated to writing, before being rejected from the graduate writing program at the University of British Columbia. Offered the chance, she went to Rankin Inlet on the west coast of Hudson Bay where she spent 9 months. Her novel, Warchild, won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest.

Karin Lowachee Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Warchild
SF Site Review: Warchild
SF Site Interview: Karin Lowachee
Article: The Backburner Book
SF Site Excerpt: Warchild

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sherwood Smith

Ryan Azarcon is a spoiled brat. He's also, at age nineteen (three years into his majority on this far-future Hub station called Austra) the "Hot Number One Bachelor." Good looking, rich, son of extremely famous parents, you'd think he has no reason to be snotty to the media and grumpy to his patient bodyguard of seven years, Sid, as well as to his loving relatives, right?

Wrong. Ryan's mother is a media star and thinks that living in the public eye is perfect for her son as well as herself. His father is a pirate-hunting ship captain who is so busy fighting aliens, privateers, as well as pirates, Ryan has only seen him four times. His father is also so private Ryan knows little about him, except that he fights with his mother almost constantly whenever he does come home.

In a long series of nesting flashbacks at the beginning, we learn this much about Ryan, plus the fact that his trip to Earth to go to school nearly ended with him being killed in a terrorist attack. The political situation between the aliens, pirates, and the Hub traders is worsening, and his parents are at the center -- pulled toward opposing sides.

No wonder Ryan meanders his way to friends who can get him illegal drugs so he can escape mentally, if not physically, from his expensive prison of a home.

His escape lasts until a single party, when once again violence just misses him. The result? His father blazes in-station and sweeps him away aboard his war ship, the Macedon, for safety. Ryan, resisting and protesting all the way, is thus forced to come to terms with a father he has seen four times in his life.

Meanwhile, the violence, and the stakes, escalate. Ryan's father, in an abrupt about-face, is no longer fighting the alien "strits" or the privateers who allied with the aliens, he is negotiating a truce with them, so they can all join and go after the real enemy -- the pirates. But the government doesn't trust the truce, the aliens, or Captain Azarcon.

Just about the time Ryan starts coming to terms with the political situation, with his father, with Jos Musey -- the mysterious young man his own age who is acting as interpreter between the aliens, the privateer leader nicknamed Warboy, and the humans -- and with ship-board life, the government accuses Ryan's father of having been a pirate.

And then the terror strikes even closer to home; and Ryan gets captured.

Burndive is well-written, emotionally fraught, set in a scary, complex world where no one is quite what they seem. Even the pirates, the threatening aliens, Ryan's friends, his family, and the good-guy politicians all wear metaphorical masks to hide their real motivations.

The beginning is somewhat slow and probably more Byzantine than many readers might like, with intersecting flashbacks in between fairly mundane events as he prowls his home and seeks the drugs. I wish Burndive had begun when Ryan was fourteen, when he last saw his father -- and when other important events took place. But once he is aboard the Macedon, the story-line goes linear, and the pacing takes off like a rocket. The climax finally shifts to another voice, rendering the last part of the story unrelentingly tense and involving.

Karin Lowachee's boyz are uniformly young, cool, handsome, emotionally scarred and lethally trained, a combo that in a writer with less talent usually spirals down into adolescent sentiment and cliché. Lowachee, who burst onto the SF scene with her previous novel, Warchild, a Warner Aspect contest winner, avoids the common pitfalls with stylish prose, vivid imagery, and laser-strike flashes of insight into the tensions that produce leaders. She does not manipulate the reader into pity. The result is a compelling story that sets the world up for a third installment. I look forward to it.

Copyright © 2003 Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is a writer by vocation and reader by avocation. Her webpage is at

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