Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Artemisawakening Artemis Awakening
by Jane Lindskold

Supplied for review by Tor

Reviewed By: Alan Robson

There is one type of story that always makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and sends authentic shivers down my spine. An empire has collapsed and now, centuries later, the empire is just half-forgotten legend and lore. But the traces that it has left behind can still have a profound effect on the lives of the characters in the story. Isaac Asimov used this idea in his Foundation stories and so did J. R. R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. Now Jane Lindskold has used the idea in Artemis Awakening, and what a magnificent job she has done with it.

These days Artemis is a rather bucolic, sparsely inhabited planet. But the loremasters tell of a time when it was a pleasure planet used by the “seegnur”. Adara is a huntress. She and her puma Sand Shadow are out hunting when they see a strange looking shooting star. Following the traces it has left, they find a crashed spaceship from which they rescue Griffin Dane. Griffin is a historian and archeologist from what remains of humanity’s star spanning civilization. His studies have revealed long forgotten references to the old empire’s pleasure planet and he has come to investigate. But the loss of his ship and all of his equipment probably means that his investigation will be over before it has begun. Adara is not so sure – she knows people who have studied the old days, people who she is sure will be able to help Griffin. Perhaps the few surviving seegnur sites might even have equipment that can get Griffin off the planet again and get him back home to his family! Griffin is less certain about this. His studies have told him that during the last battle that destroyed the empire’s outposts on Artemis, the combatants, in a fit of childish pique, scattered nanobots that destroyed the techological infrastructure of the planet. If they couldn’t have the planet, neither could anyone else! Those nanobots are probably still active. After all, the current society on Artemis is not itself a technological one.

And so the scene is set for a magificent picaresque novel. It’s a quest, it’s a story of the exploration of the unknown, it’s a tale that pursues half-understood clues to mysterious ends.

Such a story only works well if the characters involved in it come alive in the reader’s mind, and that will only happen if the back story is thoroughly worked out in the author’s mind. Without that unifying solidity, the story structure can quickly turn into essentially arbitrary incidents that never quite gell into a coherent whole. It is clear that Jane Lindskold fully understands this, and that she has worked very hard indeed to give her characters and settings the depth that they require. As a direct result of this careful preparation, everything about Artemis feels extraordinarily real. The world is properly lived in, and the people who live there fit perfectly into their world.

Adara is a fascinating character, and her puma Sand Shadow is just as interesting. They have a crude telepathic bond with each other. Also both are adapted – genetic modifications have given Adara the ability to see in the dark and hands that are almost paws. Sand Shadow has paws that are almost hands and Griffin wins her affection by teaching her some new knots to tie! He also introduces a game of marbles to which Sand Shadow quickly becomes addicted. And yet despite these genetic alterations, Adara remains completely a human being and Sand Shadow remains completely a cat. Humanity and felinity are defined less by the shape of the body than they are by the attitudes of the mind that lives within that body.

The genetic modifications that define Adara and Sand Shadow are not common on Artemis. Presumably they were initiated by the seegnur for their own mysterious reasons – the seegnur seem to have regarded the inhabitants of Artemis as a kind of servant class, clay to be moulded for specific roles on the pleasure planet. Griffin meets more adapted people on his quest, some of them very strange indeed. It starts to become apparant that this strangeness may not be quite as arbitrary as at first it appeared to be. There is something happening behind the scenes, something that will profoundly affect the outcome of the tale.

The story progresses to a nicely satisfying end, but threads remain to be ravelled up and I’m very eager to see what happens in the next novel. I’ve fallen a little bit in love with Adara (and I’ve fallen a lot in love with Sand Shadow). By the end of the book, Griffin has made much headway in his quest, but there is still a long way to go. I dearly want to know how (and if) he will succeed.

Artemis Awakening grabbed hold of me and simply wouldn’t let me go. I quickly found myself resenting having to put the book down in order to do mundane things like cook a meal and go to bed. I was living on Artemis and travelling with Adara, Sand Shadow and Griffin. I hated to leave them. Who knows what might have happened to them while I wasn’t there...

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