Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"Threat-Response, Soul and Astrology"
The President's Astrologer by Barbara Shafferman, Llewellyn pb. 1998
Highlander: White Silence by Ginjer Buchanan, Warner Aspect pb. March 1999
Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Dominion War" Books One and Three, by John Vornholt, ocket pb. November 1998
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "The Dominion War" Books Two and Four by Diane Carey
The Last DragonLord by Joanne Bertin, Tor Fantasy Trade Pb, December 1998 ( see www.tor.com for more by Bertin)
Seldom does a perfectly written novel show up published anywhere but the high-paying publishers based in Manhattan. "The President's Astrologer" is, however, just such a novel. It is technically flawless, but un-publishable by Manhattan because of a very minor formula violation.
The President's Astrologer is about a fairly ordinary (not a specialist in Mundane Astrology) but competent astrologer who is chosen by the President of the USA to be his personal astrologer.
The opening reads like every working astrologer's wish-fulfillment fantasy. This astrologer is called to respond to a threat to the President and thus to her country, and she rises to the occasion both because of her own Honor (Saturn) and because it's an opportunity (Jupiter) she can't refuse.
Then the reality comes crashing in. To join the White House staff means playing games few astrologers are trained for. Intrigue, politics, assassination, spying -- it's a whole different world.
In the back of the book, the President's and Vice President's natal charts are displayed, though during the novel many other natal charts are referred to and analyzed. I wanted them all.
There is no discussion of any of the other derivative tools that I would have expected -- no discussion of the USA chart, or charts of other nations, or their Heads of State. No progressions, no mid-point pictures, no solar arc transits to mid-points, and no mention of the specialties within astrology.
BUT, this novel was written by a "former newspaper copy-writer" - which is why it has the disciplined feel of the writing of Alvin Toffler, and why Astrology is simplified down to nothing. Yet, even simplified to the bones, the astrology isn't wrong or misleading. The jacket copy says Shafferman is an accredited Advanced Astrologer by the American Federation of Astrologers. She knows her stuff, but like a well trained journalist writes to the 4th grade level.
Toward the end of the novel, she introduces one premise that bars this novel from the major exposure it should have gotten. She uses a pair of characters who are precursors of Isaac Asimov's R. Daneel Olivaw (a Robot with a fully functional Individuality) and Star Trek: The Next Generation "android" Data.
I believe it was the Star Trek error of calling Data an "android" that led Shafferman to use that term, too. Until Star Trek popularized the error, the term "android" meant an artificial being made of protoplasm and no mechanical parts. A "robot" was made of plastic and steel and a positronic brain. A mixture is a cyborg.
Shafferman sets her story in 2006 (according only to the cover blurb). Her androids are not plausible at that date and she does nothing to show us the scientific breakthrough that would make them plausible.
And according to Manhattan Publishing, you limit the sales potential for a book if you mix two genres. Thus, people who would buy a book about The President's Astrologer would be repelled by the idea of a story with an android in it. People who would want to read stories about Androids in the White House would not want that story even lightly laced with astrology. I, however, love the mixture!
The astrology describing the life of an android who lacks a soul and thus a karma is a marvelous "sf/f premise" -- and I wish this book had been published as science fiction so we could have all the technical astrology and "real" science behind the androids. Still, as it stands, it is a 'can't put it down' read -- and technically flawless writing. A book to admire and remember with a smile.
Highlander: White Silence by Ginjer Buchanan shows us MacLeod, Fitzcairn and Danny O'Donal three Immortals, trekking the Klondike during the Gold Rush of 1896. These Highlander and Forever Knight novels need to be read together with the Yarbro novels and other novels of Immortal Kind such as The Last DragonLord.
White Silence puts MacLeod through a Jupiter-ruled Initiation, where the elements of greed and great visions of riches possess those around him. He must respond to various threats with a soul-level decision regarding his personal Values -- life vs. money vs. Honor vs. Loyalty.
Since MacLeod doesn't feel threatened within himself by Greed, this novel is not one of the supremely intense journeys of soul. But it does deepen our understanding of his relationship to Fitzcairn and that adds nuances to our understanding of what happens to MacLeod during the Dark Quickening -- one of the most potent sequences of episodes on television.
The Last DragonLord a first novel by Joanne Bertin is another highly recommended, nearly flawlessly structured, grand, good read. (It uses multiple point of view, and that destroys our Identification with the DragonLord and his threat-response.) It's a novel about Souls, karma and shapechanging. (see the April and May columns)
Magic created a splitting of Souls. Occasionally a truehuman soul and a truedragon soul are each sliced in half -- and half a human soul and half a dragon-soul are fused to a human baby before birth.
That baby grows to adulthood unaware of the half-dragonsoul within them, and after maturity, that human Changes for the first time into a dragon. This is a traumatic and dangerous experience, but if the person survives, they become a DragonLord -- a weredragon -- able to change to dragon form at will, but always threatened by the powerful dragonsoul within which can overwhelm the human-soul.
The other two halves of those two souls are born -- sometimes centuries later -- into another human. That human is the soultwin of the first one. The two half-souls seek each other, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.
Our Hero is the youngest DragonLord and it has been centuries since he first Changed. He is devoured by Loneliness. It is now thought that the DragonLords are dying out (they are virtually Immortal -- but there have been no new ones Changing).
He meets his soultwin before she Changes, and he is a terrible danger to her because she hasn't Changed.
The threat here is to two souls, divided and yearning to unite. This DragonLord's response to a threat to his soultwin is rich, Honorable, and raises all kinds of questions to think about. The Saturn elements of self-restraint are key to this plot. The DragonSoul half seems to have replaced the human subconscious.
This is a passionate story that twangs all my heartstrings - so I can't see the flaws. All I know is I love this novel. And there's a forthcoming one titled Dragon And Phoenix -- I hope I can get my hands on.
The Dominion War tetralogy is another entry in Star Trek's novel program to connect the various Treks. It's fast-paced action, well written, plausible, good solid characterizations, a great feast of a good-read. Highly recommended. Books like these could hook new viewers on the show itself.
Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg,
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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg