The imperious Winter colonists have ruled the planet Tiamat for 150 years, deriving wealth from the slaughter of the sea mers. But soon the galactic stargate will close, isolating Tiamat, and the 150-year reign of the Summer primitives will begin. All is not lost if Arienrhod, the ageless, corrupt Snow Queen, can destroy destiny with an act of genocide. Arienrhod is not without competition as Moon, a young Summer-tribe sibyl, and the nemesis of the Snow Queen, battles to break a conspiracy that spans space.
©1980 Joan D. Vinge (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
Fantastic performance - the characters truly came alive!
I was thrilled to find this old favorite amongst Audible's new releases, and Ellen Archer's performance truly did it justice. I am very much hoping to see World's End and The Summer Queen follow it up!
Very pleased with this performance of a much loved book. The narrator did a superb job matching voice to character. Also, kept the complex tale moving forward between the various locales and character groups.
I very much hope that Audible.com will take on Joan Vinge's other works such as the Summer Queen and the Cat/Psion series.
Kat at FanLit
The Snow Queen, published in 1980, is Joan Vinge’s science fiction adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the same name. In Vinge’s version, Anderson’s love story takes place on the planet Tiamat which is located near a black hole. Tiamat is a convenient rest stop for interstellar travelers and they often go down to the planet for respite or trade, but Tiamat also has its own special commodity: the Water of Life. This youth-preserving substance is made by killing a marine species found only on Tiamat and is available to rich travelers who are willing to leave their money or their technology behind. The “Winter” clan who governs Tiamat craves the technology that will make their life more comfortable, but the Hegemony, the real rulers of several worlds, keeps Tiamat (and, therefore, the Water of Life) in their control by restricting technological development.
The Snow Queen has been ruling Tiamat for the Winter clan for 150 years, but everything on Tiamat is about to change because the planet’s unusual orbit is nearing the phase where the black hole will become unstable, closing the planet to outside influence. At that time the planet’s relationship to its sun will also change, reverting Tiamat to its “Summer” ecology. As has been the tradition, the Summer clan will choose a Summer Queen who will sacrifice the Winter Queen and her consort and will rule for the next 150 years until the orbit changes again. The Summers are backward, superstitious, and hate technology. They also revere the sea creatures that the Snow Queen has been killing. Thus, the entire culture of Tiamat will be transformed when they are in power. But the Winter Queen is not ready to be sacrificed and she has a plan to keep her clan in power. It involves our protagonists, Moon and Sparks, a pair of teenage cousins and lovers who belong to the Summer clan.
Joan Vinge’s The Snow Queen won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1981 and I respect the opinion of several people I know who love it and claim it as one of their favorite science fiction novels. I, however, remain completely mystified. Perhaps if I had read it back in 1980 (except that I was too young) I would have appreciated it. After all, the novel has an ecological focus and its main characters are women — both of those features were unusual for science fiction novels of that era.
Vinge’s main characters may be women but most of them are pathetic. On the surface they seem to be strong, but those in power are either evil (e.g., The Snow Queen), unconfident because they’re women (e.g., Jerusha the police inspector) or are completely derailed by their love of a man (e.g., Moon). Fortunately, there are some admirable secondary female characters.
I had a couple of major issues with The Snow Queen. The first is that I had a hard time believing in Vinge’s world. The black hole, orbit and ecology change is a clever setup, and there were other clever features which I can’t explain without spoiling the plot, but I didn’t really believe in the Summer/Winter dichotomy and that any rulers could ever expect such a governmental and cultural transition to be successful. Along with this, I didn’t believe that the Winters, with 150 years worth of technology to study (and immortality besides) couldn’t figure out how to replicate, or create their own, technology, even if they had to keep it hidden from the Hegemony.
But what I disliked most about The Snow Queen was the protagonists, Moon and Sparks. Biologically they are cousins, they were raised as twin siblings by their grandmother, and they became lovers as children. YUCK. It’s really hard to root for their love affair, upon which the entire foundation of the plot rests — The Snow Queen is, after all, a love story at heart. I could not get past the incest or the sick single-minded blind devotion to each other. In addition, besides the weird relationship, I found both characters hard to like. They were sulky, self-absorbed, and impetuous. Sparks brooded for the entire story. Moon was better, but still did not display enough loveable qualities to explain why everyone thought she was a saint. Yet nearly every character either fell in love with her or announced that she had profoundly changed their life. I didn’t get it and this eventually ruined the story for me.
I listened to Audible Frontiers’ version of The Snow Queen which was read by Ellen Archer. At first her narration is plodding — lacking the right rhythm to effortlessly carry the listener along — but this resolves about 1/3 of the way through. I’m not enamored of Ms. Archer’s Irish accents — they just don’t seem to fit the story — but other listeners may feel differently.
So, while I did not like The Snow Queen, I hesitate to try to steer potential readers away. The book won a Hugo Award and I know people of excellent taste who love it. This is one you’ll have to read and decide for yourself.
Originally posted at FanLit.
The writing and world building of this story is magical in tone as well as nature. It has the same feel of wonder that a child might have experiences Alice's adventures for the first time. Yet, the story itself is certainly not child's play, but rather a complex and mature drama set within a world that is both immersive fantasy and scifi.
As with any well crafted tale, in The Snow Queen it is often tough to distinguish hero from villain. In this story, as in real life, things are just not that cut and dried. There are characters with noble intentions who have become corrupted by the ideal of any means to justify to end. Other characters might start with a strong moral compass and flounder when faced with difficult circumstances. The result is that as a reader, one might love each character a little, but then hate them just a bit, too.
Then there are the politics. Vinge is quite masterful in her layer upon layer of intrigue. There is the primary culture clash between Winter and Summer, which plays its own metaphor for so many things; cycles of change, old versus new, technology versus faith, class conflict, and finally recreation through rebirth. At the same time, there is the influence of the off-worlders which contributes to the same concepts and adds even more.
This is an outstanding read and I look forward to exploring the world future through the other books in the series.
I first read & loved The Snow Queen over 20 years ago. Vinge's characters are so real in their brokenness. Hearing this story narrated has added another dimension to an all time favorite. I wish the sequel was available on Audible.
I love to read. I also love to write. I'm a harsh critic and very, very, very rarely give five star reviews to anything. Three stars for me is an average representation of literature and not a bad review by any stretch.
In order to read another book by Joan D. Vinge, I would have to be really convinced it was much better than this one.
The sense that the story was just cobbled together and that the main characters were not concentrated on enough to make me care about them. Too many POV characters that seemed superfluous.
Moon Dawntreader Summer. Areinrhod was close second.
No. Not unless the movie was only loosely based on the book and made better.
This book won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1981 and was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1980. I was 8 at the time. The funny thing about this book is no one I know ever recommended it to me as something I should read. And I know a lot of people that read sci-fi/fantasy who I get recommendations from. But, I saw that it has a lot of glowing reviews so I picked it up.
I was disappointed in the end. Went back and talked to people I know after the fact and all but two told me that if they knew I was considering this book, they would have warned me off it. Just for the record, that would be 11 people who would have said that out of the 13 I discussed it with.
I just do not get what people see in this book. I'm happy for you if you enjoyed it, but, for me, it was just not in the class of an "award winning" (even nominated) book.
I think the basic story is a good one and the potential is there. The way it is told however is what makes it collapse.
I drive an average of 350 miles a week. Without an audio book playing I would go bonkers.
What an amazing universe! I can sort of understand why so many people LOVE this series, but it just isn't for me. I can't put my finger on any one thing, but if I had to I'd say it was a bit long-winded. I love to actually 'read' books the old fashioned way and I honestly don't think I would have made it through this one. It didn't entertain me enough to keep going with the series.
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