This just goes to prove that we're better at writing than reviewing, We totally suck at reviewing but both of us loved this book so we decided to give it a try. And I'm posting this without Lori's knowledge (don't tell her) because we both agreed it's not up to snuff. Still, it gives me a chance to recommend this book because it's damn good!
Beware - may be spoilers!!
Lori: I haven't read anything like this ever before. My science-fiction tastes have been more along the Asimov/Heinlein line so an epic romance like Gann would never have been in my radar except that everyone was raving about it (everyone being Jill Myles and Jane from Dear Author).
Carolyn downloaded it into our Kindles and we got to reading.
Summary: Amber's prostitute mother dies, she drags her sister Nicci to sign up to go colonize another planet, the ship is destroyed, crashes on the wrong planet, only a handful of humans live, they meet a religious lizardman and a lot of shit (especially bad shit) happens.
Amber was my idea of an amazing character. I'll admit that one of the reasons I loved her so damned much was because I related to her. Amber is an unattractive, fat woman who is bold, opinionated, not people savvy and immediately the focus of the blame when things go wrong.
However, Amber is also the reason that any of the humans are alive.
Among the humans are sister Nicci, Scott, a handful of fleet men and women who like the sisters, were going to colonize and breed.
From the beginning Amber is the one who guides the people away from the burning craft and saves the survivors lives when the craft explodes. Her push to get them near water ultimately saves their lives.
And her desire to keep them alive by hunting brings her into contact with Meoraq, the lizardman.
The world building in this book is spectacular and the introduction to M (as we'll call him) gives us an understanding that the society he lives in is rigid with rules. M is a sword of (Shuel), a fighter who kills to determine guilt and is allowed sex with any woman he chooses. It's a complicated society where women are subservient, certain people are running the show (like M) and a fall from grace means exile or worse.
M's encounter with the humans is a sign from God and his relationship with Amber becomes the center of the story as both a love story and more. Their slow understanding of each other, their acceptance of how two different species think and live becomes a HUGE story.
That they are attracted to each other is almost a miracle.
Amber is an atheist. M's whole civilization is controlled by religion. And yet, although they argue and fight they have a tolerance for each other that leads to a deeper relationship.
M is fascinated by (to him) Amber's ugliness, her flat face and lack of language. He tolerates her derision of his religious beliefs and touches her whenever he can.
He has never treated another female like this. Females are nonentities to him, fit only to slack his sexual needs. Amber is as unlike the lizard females as it is possible to be, mentally as well as physically.
I admired M as he tried to keep his worldview within the religious concepts he'd been taught, and yet was open minded enough allow a bit of wiggle room. At first. Then his strength of will carries him through as the wiggle room becomes a vast deception.
These two, Amber and M, complimented each other so well.
I can't say the same for the rest of the crew.
Unquestionably, the other characters (human-wise) are the least complex or interesting aspects of the story.
Amber's sister Nicci (who Amber forced along on the ship) is a horrible human being. She uses Amber constantly, turns her back when Amber needs her and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
Nicci was so vile that later in the book when she's raped, I didn't care. I wouldn't say she deserved it, nobody deserves rape, but I didn't give a damn about her.
The refugees were sheep and surprisingly weak characters. It was truly, to me, the greatest drawback. Amber's arch-nemesis Scott is the leader of the pack but he's such a nut case it becomes difficult to understand why anyone would follow him.
Amber is presented as so much smarter but so abrasive and unattractive that nobody would listen to her, no matter how right she was.
When the lizardman joins them (or herds the sheep, as it were), Amber's need to be responsible and care for the other humans makes her the only one willing to learn from M and ultimately friend him and more.
I didn't feel the sexual tension between Amber and M was as deeply sexual as it was a crossing of boundaries for both of them. The ways M would touch Amber, would teach her and open his life to her were breath taking. I always believed in him as Amber's hero because he was nothing short of perfectly heroic with her.
I kept waiting for M to grab Amber and run away from the other humans because they were so damned vile.
If he'd done that he wouldn't have been so heroic. It was his growing respect for Amber that held him back, I think. He couldn't understand why she cared for her horrible sister or the rest of the sheep, but I think he respected her feelings.
The only times he forced her was when she was in danger, ie when full winter set in and he refused to let her continue their journey.
I hated Nicci with a passion, even more than Scott. I felt contempt for all the humans especially those who should not have been sheep - Marie and the 'official' crew. It did serve to isolate Amber though and when she refused to give her rug to Nicci, I almost jumped up and down!
So, Amber started out as a fat, mouthy gal and ended up as a skinny mouthy gal. Starvation will do that for you. I haven't heard any readers complaining that the author turned her into a size 2 or whatever. Have you?
They were still calling her fat, I think, after she was skinny.
Now I have always, admittedly, felt the heroine made or unmade a novel for me. Amber was a definite winner for me and yes, mostly because I related to her so completely.
M was a fascinating character and I loved him. But my question to you Ms. Carolyn is: is your new book boyfriend a lizardman or not?
M was perfect for Amber, not me.
I'm a voyeur and like to spy on character's lives. I don't imagine I'm the heroine nor do I lust after the hero, although I do love me some solid muscle and redeeming character traits.
So I was pleased they could pleasure each other but one thing bugged me - when the inevitable happened it was Nicci that had the explanation.
So no, don't have a lizard BF but am very happy they got together and very, very happy to have the woman be the kinky (to him) aggressor. Ha!
And as an addendum, the humans called M a lizard, but I believe he and his people were warm blooded mammals who just happened to have similarities to terrestrial lizards.
Something that confused me: Gann was the name of the planet and, if I'm reading things right, also their name for Hell.
Is that how you saw it?
Sorry babe but you forgot... Gann was the name of evil basically and (super duper spoiler alert) the end when they found the recording, remember Gann was the nickname one of the men had and he used it as a joke.
Which leads to something else extraordinary in the world building.
M is a deeply religious character as are many in the story and on the world. Ultimately the truth of the religion and the rules that M and his family (and other families) live by were created falsely to hide the monsters that these men became when filled with rage or lust.
It was a smart piece of writing as explanation and macguffin but it disappointed me in a big way.
M was like a born again Christian but his God seemed to answer his prayers almost constantly. And his ability to control his own feelings because of his religious teachings was admirable.
I think I was disappointed because ultimately choosing to turn the religion and the center of M's life into something else seemed too big to sum up in only a chapter or two.
Or maybe that was just me.
I know this book was super long but there were still threads left untied.
How was Amber (the only one of her kind) accepted into the indigenous society? How did her pregnancy go? What did she have? What did the baby look like? And what adventures did they have in trying to restructure their world?
Despite the length of the novel and that I was engrossed from the very beginning, it felt unfinished. I would absolutely love a sequel.