If you’ve been following my booklog and simultaneously paying attention to the copyright dates on books, you’ve noticed that I inexplicably never read James Alan Gardner’s Commitment Hour , which was written before the last book or two of his that I have read

Well, there’s a reason for that. Commitment Hour had that sort of ideological feminist look about it, a sort of Le Guin/Tepper aura. And while I’m theoretically fine with books that are all deeply introspective about gender roles, in practice, I more often want to read action-packed space adventures. Yeah, I’m shallow. So be it.

So anyway, after reading Hunted, I said to myself, “Dude, I bet that book totally isn’t what you’re thinking it is; it’s probably this adventure/mystery thing, and you’re an idiot to be avoiding it.” So, I picked it up, and I was half right — it was an adventure/mystery story, but it was also an exploration of gender role stuff. Thankfully, the combination worked well, and it never became preachy or didactic.

On the downside, it was a bit obvious; there’s a long period of the book where things are obvious to you that aren’t obvious to the narrator, which is irritating. But then, that’s largely because Gardner is doing the same thing Kirstein did in her Steerswoman books — describing high-tech stuff from the perspective of an ignorant, superstitious primitive. So, okay, yeah, we know the protagonist’s “gods” are probably not actual deities, while he doesn’t; that’s not really a flaw in the book. Still, Gardner’s a bit less skilled than Kirstein at writing from a primitive’s perspective — the narrator here does come off a bit slow by not realizing what’s going on.

Long story short, not Gardner’s best book, but not bad, either. If you’ve read his other stuff, you’ll want to read this (which is set in the same universe, but features no characters from other books); if not, read something else first.

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