A keeper? Ugh, no
And it started so well.
This week’s project for 52 Books in 52 Weeks was The Nowhere Hunt (Book Six of the Diadem), by Jo Clayton – a prolific science fiction author back in the eighties and nineties.
But Back In The Day, I loved her Skeen Trilogy – Skeen’s Leap; Skeen’s Return; and, to a lesser degree, Skeen’s Search – the adventures of an interstellar adventurer who gets herself stranded on a strange world which may not be exactly in our universe. So I bought a lot of other Claytons, including this one, and I’m finally reading it.
As I say, it begins well. A dying intelligent insect makes a pathetic plea for help, and Aleytys – the series’ heroine – agrees to take on a complex rescue mission. We’re solidly enmeshed in the tropes of habitual interstellar travel, multiple intelligent species interacting, and competent, daring women, all of which I enjoy.
Then suddenly we’re in a confusing story about primitive people who don’t seem to be exactly human on a hallucinogenic world, seen through the bloodthirsty eyes of their young oracle Roha. Eventually Aleytys turns up on the same planet and things become more understandable, but by that time I no longer cared. Roha’s tribe harasses mysterious demons from Outside, getting many of their brave warriors killed by “demons” in the process. Aleytys is captured by a bloodthirsty criminal and endures a forced march to the insects’ wrecked starship, getting many of the subordinate criminals killed by Roha’s tribe on the way. The insects endure a forced march back to base . . .and so on.
It was all very boring.
Why? I think the split focus was a major problem; I never understood the Primitive Natives well enough to empathize with their goals, and they kept pulling my attention away from Aleytys and her goals. Maybe Clayton was still learning her way back in 1981.