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The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge
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The Snow Queen (original 1980; edition 1980)

by Joan D. Vinge

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1,516324,872 (3.97)82
Member:HanJie
Title:The Snow Queen
Authors:Joan D. Vinge
Info:London : Macdonald Futura, 1981, c1980.
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:**1/2
Tags:hugo, locus, fairy tale, science fiction

Work details

The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge (1980)

  1. 10
    The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (bunnygirl)
  2. 11
    The Shore of Women by Pamela Sargent (MEStaton)
  3. 01
    Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper (sturlington)
    sturlington: Also a fairy tale retelling with sci-fi/fantasy elements.
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Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.

The Snow Queen, published in 1980, is Joan Vinge??s science fiction adaptation of Hans Christian Andersonƒ??s fairy tale of the same name. In Vingeƒ??s version, Andersonƒ??s love story takes place on the planet Tiamat which is located near a black hole. Tiamat is a convenient rest stop for interstellar travelers and they often go down to the planet for respite or trade, but Tiamat also has its own special commodity: the Water of Life. This youth-preserving substance is made by killing a marine species found only on Tiamat and is available to rich travelers who are willing to leave their money or their technology behind. The ƒ??Winterƒ? clan who governs Tiamat craves the technology that will make their life more comfortable, but the Hegemony, the real rulers of several worlds, keeps Tiamat (and, therefore, the Water of Life) in their control by restricting technological development.

The Snow Queen has been ruling Tiamat for the Winter clan for 150 years, but everything on Tiamat is about to change because the planetƒ??s unusual orbit is nearing the phase where the black hole will become unstable, closing the planet to outside influence. At that time the planetƒ??s relationship to its sun will also change, reverting Tiamat to its ƒ??Summerƒ? ecology. As has been the tradition, the Summer clan will choose a Summer Queen who will sacrifice the Winter Queen and her consort and will rule for the next 150 years until the orbit changes again. The Summers are backward, superstitious, and hate technology. They also revere the sea creatures that the Snow Queen has been killing. Thus, the entire culture of Tiamat will be transformed when they are in power. But the Winter Queen is not ready to be sacrificed and she has a plan to keep her clan in power. It involves our protagonists, Moon and Sparks, a pair of teenage cousins and lovers who belong to the Summer clan.

Joan Vingeƒ??s The Snow Queen won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1981 and I respect the opinion of several people I know who love it and claim it as one of their favorite science fiction novels. I, however, remain completely mystified. Perhaps if I had read it back in 1980 (except that I was too young) I would have appreciated it. After all, the novel has an ecological focus and its main characters are women ƒ?? both of those features were unusual for science fiction novels of that era.

Vingeƒ??s main characters may be women but most of them are pathetic. On the surface they seem to be strong, but those in power are either evil (e.g., The Snow Queen), unconfident because theyƒ??re women (e.g., Jerusha the police inspector) or are completely derailed by their love of a man (e.g., Moon). Fortunately, there are some admirable secondary female characters.

I had a couple of major issues with The Snow Queen. The first is that I had a hard time believing in Vingeƒ??s world. The black hole, orbit and ecology change is a clever setup, and there were other clever features which I canƒ??t explain without spoiling the plot, but I didnƒ??t really believe in the Summer/Winter dichotomy and that any rulers could ever expect such a governmental and cultural transition to be successful. Along with this, I didnƒ??t believe that the Winters, with 150 years worth of technology to study (and immortality besides) couldnƒ??t figure out how to replicate, or create their own, technology, even if they had to keep it hidden from the Hegemony.

But what I disliked most about The Snow Queen was the protagonists, Moon and Sparks. Biologically they are cousins, they were raised as twin siblings by their grandmother, and they became lovers as children. YUCK. Itƒ??s really hard to root for their love affair, upon which the entire foundation of the plot rests ƒ?? The Snow Queen is, after all, a love story at heart. I could not get past the incest or the sick single-minded blind devotion to each other. In addition, besides the weird relationship, I found both characters hard to like. They were sulky, self-absorbed, and impetuous. Sparks brooded for the entire story. Moon was better, but still did not display enough loveable qualities to explain why everyone thought she was a saint. Yet nearly every character either fell in love with her or announced that she had profoundly changed their life. I didnƒ??t get it and this eventually ruined the story for me.

I listened to Audible Frontiersƒ?? version of The Snow Queen which was read by Ellen Archer. At first her narration is plodding ƒ?? lacking the right rhythm to effortlessly carry the listener along ƒ?? but this resolves about 1/3 of the way through. Iƒ??m not enamored of Ms. Archerƒ??s Irish accents ƒ?? they just donƒ??t seem to fit the story ƒ?? but other listeners may feel differently.

So, while I did not like The Snow Queen, I hesitate to try to steer potential readers away. The book won a Hugo Award and I know people of excellent taste who love it. This is one youƒ??ll have to read and decide for yourself. If youƒ??ve already read it, Iƒ??m interested in hearing your opinion. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
In The Snow Queen, Joan Vinge presents a world in which everyone is plagued by a lack of knowledge about how the universe works. There are three social strata--the "Summers" who are technology-hating nature worshippers, the "Winters" who love technology but don't know and don't care how it works, and the "Hegemony", who produces technology and uses it to its own political advantage. Yet even the Hegemony is just feeding off the scraps of a long-extinct Empire, who created the framework for all the important plot elements. The story arises when two Summer children begin cutting across the various social strata--the boy, Sparks, falls in with the Winters and the girl, Moon, with the Hegemony. While Sparks becomes jaded and cynical, Moon's devotion to Sparks and the experiences she had when her eyes were opened to the wider world makes her determined to enact political change for knowledge-spreading instead of bartering. Naturally, this doesn't sit well with the entrenched political situation (particularly the titular Snow Queen of the Winters--a master politician), forcing the protagonists to work through a number of sticky situations. It was an interesting read. ( )
  Phrim | Nov 8, 2013 |
This is good book. Not great, but good. I like the premise, I liked the world, but the characters were a bit cold. They were interesting, but I really couldn't get into them. No connection. It also feels dated... It's not the technology, or the world, but the writing style screams old.

As such, I probably won't recommend this to friends, unless they are specifically looking for something like this. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Jul 5, 2013 |
Chosen as the science fiction selection for July 2011 by the SciFi & Fantasy Book Club. To peruse the discussion from the group read, click here.

I know it's September now, but I'm still very interested in finishing this novel and reviewing it soon.
  mossjon | Mar 31, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joan D. Vingeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watkins, France-MarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whelan, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"...strait is the gate and narrow is the way which
leadeth unto light, and few there be that find it."

- New Testament, Matthew 7:14
"You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said
God; you shall not have both.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dedication
To the Lady, who gives, and who takes away.
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The door swung shut silently behind them, cutting off the light, music, and wild celebration of the ballroom.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446676640, Paperback)

The imperious Winter colonists have ruled the planet Tiamat for 150 years, deriving wealth from the slaughter of the sea mers. But soon the galactic stargate will close, isolating Tiamat, and the 150-year reign of the Summer primitives will begin. All is not lost if Arienrhod, the ageless, corrupt Snow Queen, can destroy destiny with an act of genocide. Arienrhod is not without competition as Moon, a young Summer-tribe sibyl, and the nemesis of the Snow Queen, battles to break a conspiracy that spans space.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:49 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

As the end of her third lifetime draws near, Arienrhod, the ancient ruler of far Tiamat, clones several heirs, and seeds them on different islands throughout her sea-dark world.

(summary from another edition)

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