Ganwold’s Child: Book One of the Sergey Chronicles, Diann Thornley Read (TOR, 1995)

(Military Science Fiction, YA, Science Fiction, Ripping Yarn)

Grade: Δ — (Delta) A good, solid read, but only buy it if you like the genre.

Read Ganwold-resizedIn brief:

Ganwold’s Child was Diann Read’s first novel and the first installment of the Sergey Chronicles.[1]  Half-YA and half Military Science Fiction, it is a fun read for any science fiction fan (even those who are not normally MilFic readers) that sets up what promises to be a very interesting series while still giving a solid conclusion at the end of the book.  What is more, the Kindle version of the book will be free on Amazon for May 18-19 (www.amazon.com/Ganwolds-Child-Sergey-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B009SS3GM4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366979641&sr=1-1&keywords=ganwold%27s+child).

Setting:

Far future interstellar space with Faster than Light (FTL) travel and numerous alien species.  Human civilization has fragmented slightly with at least two interstellar human polities, the Unified Worlds and the Dominion, though there are suggestions that others might well exist.  Some of the other interstellar races are also Balkanized.  There are suggestions throughout this text that both the alien cultures and the human politics have depths greater than those directly discussed in the book itself – hopefully to be revealed in the later volumes.

In Depth: 

Tristan grew up a human among aliens. Now he must use his alienness to survive among humans.

Read Omnibus2Ganwold’s Child was Diann Read’s first novel and at times it shows,[2] but what also shows is the deep thought that she put into the world she created and the reality that stems from her clear military background.  Together, these elements make for a fun and light but engaging read that will appeal to many Science Fiction fans.  Indeed, though I categorize this both under YA (because of the youthful age of the central protagonist) and Military Science Fiction (because of clear military elements in the second half of the book), I think it will appeal to any fan of Sci Fi who wants a straight forward, fun “does what it says on the tin” type of a read.  To that end, when I give it a Delta, I mean that it will appeal to readers of the whole Science Fiction genre, and not just readers of YA or MilFic subgenres.

In essence, this book is the story of Tristan, the son of two high powered Military officers: his mother an MD, his father the head of a Special Ops/Intelligence division. Yet an accident and attack by slavers at the outset of the book leaves the toddler aged Tristan and his mother stranded on an alien world deep inside of enemy territory.  The opening sequence, a sample of which is provided in varying formats here (LINK) and below, immediately drew me into the story.[3]

Fear of capture and exploitation leads Tristan’s mother to raise the boy among the Gan, a feral, tribal and truly matriarchal alien culture.[4]  As such, Tristan grows up as much a part of this alien culture as he is human and in some senses more so.  Unlike many such stories, what struck me the most was the importance of that cultural upbringing throughout the book.  While Tristan intellectually understands that human culture is not matriarchal (and the culture presented by Read in this book suggests that it is even a tad more male dominated that I hope the future will be), he and his Gan ‘brother,’ Pulou, still react to interactions expecting a female dominated culture.  This comes into play throughout the story, not just as background, but as central elements to choices they make in the tale. [5]  Usually such a cultural difference in novels (science fiction and otherwise) comes across merely as window dressing, so seeing a difference reflected throughout a book is truly refreshing to see.

diannThornleyReadIndeed, perhaps my greatest complaint of the book is that we don’t see more of the Gan culture, nor do we delve very greatly into Pulou very much.  This character could well have been developed with much greater depth, and similarly, I would loved to have seen more scenes of Tristan’s early life among the Gan.  Perhaps these elements will come out more as I read more deeply into the Sergey Chronicles.  Even so, wanting more of such an element in a book is hardly a bad thing, and I do wonder if it was trimmed to suit an editor’s choice. If so, it is a pity, because at the conclusion of the book there are outcomes of dealings with alien cultures that didn’t quite jibe with my understanding of the interstellar.[6] Regardless, the suggestion of deeper alien cultures and complex politics that are not info-dumped on a hapless reader are generally a good thing.

Other shining parts of the novel come from the author’s military background.  There are scenes of flight academy examinations that are presented with such realism that one has no doubt that Ms. Read once served in the Air Force.  Similarly, there is an Intelligence Briefing shown towards the second half of the novel that read with 100% accuracy regarding both the tone of the meeting and the kinds of information being used to form the conclusions.  No super-secret spy providing high stakes intelligence, but rather ship movements that could be recorded by anyone able to observe bases; very realistic, with one exception – not nearly as dull as real world intelligence briefings.

sergey2This leads to the last element of the book that makes it stand out from many MilFic tales – the politics.  As noted before, in the realm of Military Science Fiction there are two basic types of plotlines: the Soldier’s Story and the Tale of Tactics.  Where it is a MilFic tale, Ganwold’s Child definitely fits more into the former than the latter. As noted by many critics of the MilFic genre, both styles of story tend to be light on the politics behind the war, but this is more so with the Soldier’s Story.[7]  The reasons for this are simple: most soldiers (or officers, or ratings, starmen, space marines or what have you) do not have very significant inputs into the politics of a situation.  In general, if you are on the front line, you are not making the policy decisions that lead you into the war in the first place.

In this book, and hopefully the rest of the Sergey Chronicles, Diann Thornley Read manages to overcome this weakness by including the personal politics of an Admiral and his family at the center of the tale.  In this way, Read manages to keep the story a personal tale (which is, after all, the core nature of most Military Science Fiction) while also introducing the broader Interstellar politics into the mix.  How this will play out in the series as a whole has yet to be seen, but it certainly sets up the potential for an unique approach that will play well.

As for the plot, Ganwold’s Child is a straight forward action tale that ‘does what it says on the tin’:  a good, fun read that introduces a world and hints a greater depth. It is a bit of MilFic that doesn’t get bogged down with too much techy detail, and a touch of YA that isn’t simply a boy’s wish-fulfillment style novel. To that end, I would recommend it as a good book to pick up for any fan of science fiction who would like a light read.  As that it is free this weekend, 18th and 19th of May (2013), it would be a pity to pass it by.

For a sample, click here:

Ganwold’s Child – Free PDF Sample

For the a direct link to the whole book

Ganwold’s Child (free on Amazon Kindle May 18th and 19th, 2013 – www.amazon.com/Ganwolds-Child-Sergey-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B009SS3GM4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366979641&sr=1-1&keywords=ganwold%27s+child)


[1] Originally released in the 1990’s by TOR as The Saga of the Unified Worlds, the series has been re-released by the author under the more appropriate name: The Sergey Chronicles.

[2] And who am I to criticize right?  First books are first books, mine included.

[3] Though, I will admit that my status as a helicopter dad may well have something to do with that.

[4] Males have a strong role in society, but females – particularly mothers – have a central decision making role and males are clearly deferential to almost subservience to them. Males take no part in childrearing and there are no patrilineal bonds, nor masculine input to group decision making.  Females make a decision, the males submit to it – apparently on a biological level – except, perhaps, when the good of the matriarch outweighs that choice. As such, females are the important part of the society.

[5] For good and ill.

[6] Mind you, I could just have missed something while read… I have been missing a lot of sleep recently.

[7] Actually, this is a criticism of MilFic that is generally both unfair and inaccurate.  While it is true that most MilFic does not go into the politics behind a tale, that is generally because the stories are about individuals in combat (often enlisted men).  What is more, there are a large number of stories that do put the politics of a war into the tale.  Regardless, this is a topic for another post.

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About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
This entry was posted in Chronicle, Cycle, Far Future, Identity, Military Science Fiction, Part of A Series but can be Read without reading previous volumes, Ripping Yarn, Saga, Science Fiction, Series, Space Opera, Stand Alone Novel, Uncategorized, World and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Ganwold’s Child: Book One of the Sergey Chronicles, Diann Thornley Read (TOR, 1995)

  1. JoJo says:

    Thanks for the heads up about the free download! And as always, for your insightful review!!

  2. diannread says:

    Excellent and very fair review, Thomas. I can’t wait to turn you loose on my next series!

  3. Pingback: Ganwold’s Child: Book One of the Sergey Chronicles, Diann Thornley Read (TOR, 1995) | Todd DeanTodd Dean

  4. Thomas Evans says:

    I just finished reading Echoes of Issel, the second in the Sergey Chronicles, and was very pleasantly surprised by the turn the story takes. I’m working on a backlog right now, so it will be a little while before I review it, but really, it is a very solid story that deals with post traumatic stress and the issues involving people in captivity. All this while also delivering some gripping action.

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