While I was at the book store last week, I picked up a sci-fi book called The January Dancer by Michael Flynn for $2.95. I had never heard of Flynn (who happens to be a Hugo Award finalist as well as Robert A. Heinlein Award–winning author) but for three bucks at the time how could I not give it a shot?
In bar on a world named Jehovah, a scarred man recounts a story for a minstrel who hopes to compose music from it. The tale begins with Amos January and his crew of The New Angeles as they unearth ancient “prehuman” artifacts while searching for materials to repair their ship. They eventually manage to escape the planet with a single relic; some call it “The Slipstone” while others dub it “The Dancer” due to the fact that it seems to move and change shape while no one is watching.
The book is classic space opera at its core, yet also manages to be so much more than that. Deft and poetic prose made me feel like I was reading a fantasy novel, while the extra dimension of the conversations between the scarred man and the minstrel enriches the ambiance of the story and adds great texture.
Even more interesting than the narration itself is the comprehensive exposition of the worlds and cultures that exist along The Rift. Flynn provides extensive paragraphs describing these cultures, yet not once does it feel like an info-dump or tedious essay.
What once felt like a bargain suddenly feels like theft upon completion of the novel; I sincerely believe the author deserves every penny of the full retail price for this book. So thank you, Michael Flynn, for such an entertaining read-and if I ever run into you on the street, I owe you five dollars.
“Everything in the universe is older than it seems. Blame Einstein for that. We see what a thing was when the light left it, and that was long ago. Nothing in the night sky is contemporary, not to us, not to one another. Ancient stars explode into ruin before their sparkle ever caught our eyes; those glimpsed in glowing “nurseries” were crones before we witnessed their birth. Everything we marvel at is already gone.” –The January Dancer