Friday, September 7, 2018

Lake Silence (The World of the Others #1) by Anne Bishop

Vicky DeVine has just manages to escape a viciously abusive marriage and in the settlement she was granted ownership of the Jumble. A house and a collection of dilapidated cabins on the banks of Lake Silence. A beautiful location for a holiday - but she only owns the cabins. The terra indigene own the land and have set strict rules on how it can be used.

Vicky DeVine, building her new life is learning and adapting quickly to what that means.

But other people have seen her land and all the potential it has - and all the money they can make if they can just get Vicky out of the way… but you ignore the Others at your own peril

This book has a lot of parallels with original The Others series. And I’m torn. Because I do wonder if perhaps there are too many close parallels…?

The protagonist is Vicky Divine. She is a very vulnerable woman who is also inclined to breakdowns. She is threatened by a human force that want to use, abuse and threaten her but she makes connections with the Terra Indigene, the Others, who are willing to protect her. She is acting, in some ways, as a liaison between the Terra Indigene and humanity, her position as landlord of the Jumble, a Terra Indigene settlement/human holiday resort, brings her into close contact with the Others. She’s also being used by the Terra Indigene who want to learn about humanity and what it means to be human. Alongside we have some police desperately trying to stop some foolish humans from provoking the Others into violent retaliation

Which sounds a lot like The Meg… a vulnerable woman who is inclined to breakdowns who was threatened by humans that want to use, abuse and threaten her. She makes connections with the Terra indigene, living in a Terra Indigene settlement,as their liaison with humanity, helping humans coexist with the Others and allowing the Others to learn more about humanity. Along side there were police desperately trying to stop some foolish humans from provoking anti-human genocide (and… kind of failing)

The parallels are… really strong

But is that a problem? I mean, while there are issues, I love The Others series. I really love it. It’s one of my favourite series and Renee and I both looked forward eagerly for the next book of The Meg. This book having many very similar elements to a series I already loved feels like something I SHOULD consider negative but honestly I kind of love it. The Others series is over… it’s gone. But here it is, rising again and the series being very similar feels like a good thing to me.

I love this book. I love the old series. I love Vicky learning about the idiosyncrasies of the Others around her. I love them learning about her. I love the focus on Aggie Crowguard who is so much fun. I love Grimshaw trying to stop something happening that will provoke a lethal response from the Others in the lake and wild country.

There is less focus on the interaction between The Others - Ilya Sanguinati, the main force in the area is far more aware of humanity than Simon Wolfguard was - he’s a lawyer and he even tries to work within human law to fight against those encroaching on Vicky’s land and the wild country. It’s an excellent, exciting and really funny balance between “here is my injunction” and “the fire elemental will turn you to ash.” And it works, it really works. That balance is struck.

It’s also quite unique how it works - along with how The Others worked in that our protagonists’s allies are so powerful that I was reading away gleefully waiting for the bad guys to be killed and eaten. And that isn’t a spoiler, from the very beginning we know that’s an option. This series is never about “will the Terra Indigene win” so much as “how bad will the fallout be”? In some ways it’s why the police in these series are such fascinating characters - upholding the law, while also knowing that all that law will be irrelevant if the Terra Indigene decide they are Done. Dealing with humans who you are literally trying to stop from killing themselves with their own damn foolishness, always aware that another extinction level event could easily happen.

I think it was stronger in this book because we had far less of the confusion between Vicky and the terra Indigene, far less of them learning about humanity and Vicky learning about them than we had with Meg and Simon Wolfguard

I also like that the book acknowledges the previous events of the first series - how the culture of the Terra Indigene has changed from generally ignoring humanity to paying way more attention. And there suddenly being a lot more demand for Terra Indigene to understand humanity more. And there being radically changing culture in human settlements as so many people died or moved. Even the core - that humans who were used to ignoring the rules, rules the Terra Indigene probably didn’t care all that much about before and are now SHARPLY paying attention.

Another excellent commonality this book had with The Others series was how the protagonist is vulnerable and weak but not derided for that. Vicky is a woman who has left an extremely abusive relationship - emotionally abusive not physical. She has no self esteem, she hates herself, she’s very very nervous and she suffers from severe anxiety attacks. She can easily be broken or manipulated by angry, violent, shouting men and is easily intimidated. She also doesn’t feel like the most intelligent of women, being quite naive and even quite slow at times. But that isn’t used to present her as useless: she is capable of doing her job, she has friends who respect her and the fact she can’t handle conflict isn’t used to belittle her. I also like how her reaction to abuse is also mirrored in Julian Farrow, ex-cop, who has his own stress and anxiety from their terrible experiences. Grimshaw, Julian, Ilya Sanguinati and even good friend Ineke (who is awesome in her own right) are all protective of her without it feeling belittling. Ilya is actually concerned that his protection may be seen as disrespectful or implying she’s helpless.

I do think the antagonists in this book are… a little cartoonish. I can see why - when your “good guys” are monsters who are literally going to eat people over a property deal you have to make those property developers pretty damn terrible to stop the readers thinking “ok… is breaking planning laws really worthy of a terrible death?”. And I think the book does kind of gloss over things like the death of employees or police who are not directly responsible for the whole badness but are still brutally murdered. I think that them being terrible and murdered is more SATISFYING to read on an emotional level, but that the book could be more thoughtful - and darker - if we’d looked at these deaths more closely or saw the terra indigene hunt people that maybe we wouldn’t see as deserving of it. Like the teens who tresspass on the lake to swim and manage to escape with, at most, minor injury. It’s played off as a joke but that stops us examining “hey, some kids nearly got eaten for swimming…” element. The terra indigene are this big, terrifying threat but they’ve never FELT threatening to me because you have to be TERRIBAD AWFUL for them to murder you. The fact that the dead all so richly Had It Coming removed the horror from it

We do have several poc in the small town of Sproinging though there is little examination of this are we’re far more focused on human vs vampire/evil fish monster/avatar of the concept of fire. Still, only a very bit part music teacher sticks in my mind. We have no LGBTQ people (someone is running to the comments to mention the euphemistically referred to Simple Life men. Don’t).

And we’re still compounding, albeit less overtly, a major problem of The Others: the erasure of Native Americans. Presenting Thasia as a non-human-occupied continent effectively says Native Americans never existed. Removing an entire ethnic group because they’re inconvenient is… a problem.

I like this book but part of me feels slightly reserved.  What I love about this book at the things I love about The Meg and Simon and the wonderful Others series. I love that series so much and a huge part of me is now elated that this series is continuing. But… the elements that deviate more from it? The greater investigation of the Intuits? The Others who are no longer so amusingly clueless about humanity (and the female pack)? I’m not as much a fan of - I also aren’t sure where the story goes from here and would like to see Vicky come more into her own if her story continues. Though I do really like the idea of the lawyer and accountant mixing the Terra Indigene and human law so nicely (though… why are the vampires so very very rich? I’d like to know).

I love this book. There was no way I could never not love this book. But I love it through the lens of our beloved Meg and I wonder if the parallels were less close, if I’d have enjoyed it so?