Reread: Black Sun Rising by CS Friedman

December 26, 2004 at 12:00 am | Posted in 3 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | Leave a comment

I reread this while on vacation and, going in with somewhat low expectations, I was happy with the book. Friedman’s writing here is kind of rough at times and her characters suffer from a bit of authorial imperative (neither of the two primary characters really have a good reason–or at least, a reason we are showed convincingly–for undertaking their dangerous quest). The real star is the world she has created where capricious magic on a lapsed colony world takes the fears and horrors that lurk in the subconscious and makes them real. It would have been easy to have a disastrous Freudian expedition here (Forbidden Planet comes to mind) but Friedman thankfully avoids this temptation and sacrifices true psychological complexity for a fascinating society built around coping with these conditions. For all of its problems, it comes together as a fun adventure across a very interesting world.

I have to make special mention of the character of Tarrant, who is probably the most reader-expoitive character short of Card’s Ender. Look at the online reviews for this book and you will find just a ton of people who can’t get over how cool Tarrant is. Part of the reason I reread this was in hopes of understanding the mechanisms that cause people to get near obsessive. Basically, Tarrant is powerful, intelligent, and “evil”. As such he gets the best lines, but Friedman isn’t exactly subtle in painting him in as a heart-of-gold sort of guy. So you end up with Han Solo crossed with Darth Vader. The key is except for once, before the reader really knows him, Friedman never shows him doing anything more evil than some kill-one-to-save-many moral calculus. Beyond that, she just writes a smart character, which isn’t easy–he has some genuinely impressive moments–but she doesn’t exactly break new ground in this area. The good news is she does a much better job with the bad-but-good stuff than she did in In Conquest Born and it doesn’t get in the way of appreciating the novel’s strengths. This isn’t a great book but I recommend it for genre fans.

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