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Pledge of Honor, by Lori L. Anderson Book Review | SFReader.com
Pledge of Honor, by Lori L. Anderson Genre: Science Fiction Publisher: Xlibris Published: 2003 Review Posted: 1/20/2005 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 7 out of 10
Pledge of Honor, by Lori L. Anderson
Book Review by Paul Goat Allen
Have you read this book?
When I read a brief synopsis of Lori L. Anderson's debut novel, Pledge of Honor, I was intrigued. A story of alien abduction and a desperate quest to save a civilization from slavery and inevitable destruction, I immediately envisioned a novel that was an amalgam of L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth and Whitley Strieber's Communion.
Pledge of Honor was a much more intimate - and flawed - affair, focusing more on emotional aspects than on critical secondary elements like world building, setting and pre-history. The premise of the novel - a woman gets abducted by aliens and taken by to a distant planet where she is forced into slavery only to be saved by a heroic native who is on a quest to free his people from bondage - is reinforced by Anderson's use of relationships to power the storyline.
Jamie MacGivens learns just before she is abducted that her boyfriend of two years has been cheating on her with her best friend. It may have been because she was spending so much time caring for her sick mother. It could also be that Jamie - a virgin - has refused to have sex with him. Keenu is a heroic young man living on the planet Elos who is the "last desperate hope" for his people. Alien invaders who have a settlement on the planet have been abducting his people for generations to use as slaves. Keenu, son of the tribal leader, embarks on a quest to find The One, an ancient prophet of sorts who allegedly knows how to defeat the slave masters. When the young Keenu eventually finds The One, he realizes that the old man is in fact his exiled grandfather and, as they continue the quest together, they both begin a journey of enlightenment and self-discovery.
The story, however, is written almost like a rough draft in parts. So many vital questions go completely unanswered. There is absolutely no specific reason given why these technologically superior aliens are abducting so many people in the first place - just that they use men as workers and women as breeders. Why would an advanced civilization that has faster-than-light space travel need slave labor? Couldn't they just as easily build machines to do the job? And what is the job? Mining? Agriculture? Nike sweat shops?
And how can a civilization with the ability to fly in and out of Earth's atmosphere undetected - and that has a supposedly large intergalactic empire - be so ignorant and docile? Slaves are not guarded and the invaders live in decidedly low-tech quarters with pelt blankets. When Locom, the race's bumbling leader, goes after escaped slaves, he always brings a handful of soldiers that always get their asses kicked. Where's the empire's army and all the weapons? It just doesn't make sense...
Another huge black hole comes when the story moves to the planet Elos. There is almost no description when it comes to the planet. Works of fiction - especially science fiction and fantasy - are basically free passes for writers to showcase their creative ability. Build that world! Immerse the reader in an environment - and planetary history - that will enthrall and entertain. Feist's Midkemia, Silverberg's Majipoor, McCaffrey's Pern - these realms are just as vivid and familiar as our own neighborhoods. Anderson's Elos was sadly lacking in any description at all - and those few creatures depicted seemed like two-dimensional rip-offs of iconic science fiction characters. Shadow Dwellers talked just like Yoda ("Property of his, you are...") and indigenous creatures known as fozzites were eerily like Star Trek tribbles.
For all of the novel's flaws concerning lack of description, no past history, two-dimensional setting, etc., Anderson definitely has potential in this field - especially in the growing subgenre of romantic science fiction. With a little focus on these weak spots, her strength in dealing with the complexities of relationships and emotionally powered themes should spawn some fascinating reads.
Paul Goat Allen is the editor of Barnes & Noble's Explorations science fiction/fantasy book review and is the author of Burning Sticks, Old Winding Way and Warlock Dreams.
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