SPOLER ALERT, Read anyway!

Science Fiction novel by Sharon Shinn. * * * (explanation)

I suppose I should dispense with the plot summary here, because it is exactly that of Jane Eyre, with a few things thrown in to remind you that it's Science Fiction. Victorian estates under pressure domes on otherwise-airelss planets and the like.

If you read this novel, you will become impressed with the way that Ms. Shinn has translated Victorian society into a space opera setting. The class system she constructs works perfectly. The upper-class twits are just as twitty, the ingenues are just as cloying, The tattered Dickensian characters with a heart of gold are just as tattered, just as Dickensian, and their hearts are 24 karat. Circuitous Victorian dialogue. however, does seem strange coming out of a nuclear reactor technician in coveralls.

In the past, I have been impressed with Sharon Shinn's Heart of Gold, The Shape Changer's Wife, Wrapt in Crystal, and Summers at Castle Auburn. She really knows how to spin a love story. But Jenna Starborn, because of its reliance on Charlotte Brontë's novel, is much, much weaker than the other four novels. Many scenes are contrived to make the plot precisely follow JE. With disturbing frequency, I had to stop in the middle of my reading as I recalled a similar scene in the other novel, and say "Well, yes, here we are." And of course, I kept imagining Mr Rochest..er, Mr. Ravensbeck as being played by Orson Welles.

Such antics should be beneath a novelist who has already proven her talent. You should probably only read this if you're a science fiction addict (cough). Otherwise, you won't miss much if you skip it. If you're interested in strong, self-reliant female characters who nevertheless trip themselves up, read one of Sharon Shinn's other novels. Or read Jane Eyre.

On the other hand, one does wonder how Wuthering Heights would play in Mos Eisley.

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