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Avians by Timothy Gwyn
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Avians

by Timothy Gwyn

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Showing 5 of 5
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Timothy Gwyn, in my opinion, did a great job of building a world and populating it with unique and engaging characters. He did a good job of growing some of the characters and maintaining a good grip on the plot and integrating different storylines into the overall book. I would have liked more about the other two members of the Blackbirds and more about the planet and how it came to be the way it was. Also, more about the Converts. But as a first novel, this definitely was much better than some of the other first attempts I've read in the last few years. By the end, I was thoroughly consumed with the story and burned through the last half of the book with delight and excitement. ( )
  steven.wade | Jul 7, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received a free copy of this book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review

Before I start this review properly I'd like to give a possible trigger warning re: eating disorders and food in general. There is a lot of focus especially in the early part of this book about the main character Raisa not wanting to eat and having problems with food. At first this is because she thinks if she doesn't eat she won't 'fill out' and no one will want to marry her, since she is trying to escape an impending arranged marriage. However even after she runs away this continues because the Avians have a very strictly enforced diet since they also want to remain very small and thin so they can carry more weight in their gliders. I mean they still eat three meals a day and I'm sure this is a kind of diet some types of real life athletes use to stay small for various reasons but for me I was looking at what they were eating vs. the amount of exercise they are doing every day and there is just no way they are getting enough calories. Also at one point Raisa isn't able to work out for several days and she literally says she doesn't feel like she 'deserves' to eat because she hasn't been exercising. This all gets better as the novel progresses but it made me uncomfortable several times and I feel that people who have / have had eating disorders might have some problems with it. I wish more focus had been spent on Raisa recovering from her eating disorder or that it wasn't so prominent in the first place.

However I did very much enjoy the book overall. The world was incredibly fascinating although I do wish we had gotten more answers. The story takes place on a world colonized by people from Earth but they don't really have any advanced technology because metal is so scarce on the planet and apparently Earth doesn't have enough to spare so there are only a few things like radios that use metal components on-planet. However there are larger ships that never actually land and give the people trade goods from off-world and they have tons of metal but they have to keep it a secret I guess because people will mob them if they knew about it. I don't know if there is a sequel in the works but there is plenty of room for one. The whole thing had a vaguely sinister dystopian feel to me but that was never really explored, instead choosing to focus on a more coming-of-age type story where Raisa learns to trust and work with other people. I personally don't think she SHOULD have learned to trust some of them because they obviously didn't and still don't trust her, but it was an interesting journey nonetheless and a good message under most circumstances.

I think what really made this story shine, despite me having some problems with the plot and execution, were the characters. They all felt real and believable and they all had their own distinct personalities. This book reminded me in a way of Red Sister by Mark Lawrence just because there is a large group of girls as the main cast in a kind of school / training setting. Also because I am always just genuinely impressed when a male author writes such a varied and believable cast of female characters. Definitely a very interesting book with an original concept. ( )
  devannm | Jun 27, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Avians takes place on Celedon, a watery planet with an atmosphere denser than Earth's. Human colonists have settled on the slopes of large volcanic peaks where the altitude keeps them above the uninhabitable sea-level air pressure. The setting reminds me of a Larry Niven or Alastair Reynolds story where the unusual environment drives the story action.

Frenemies Mel and Raisa escape their mututally unhappy domestic situation by joining the Avians, a group of young and slightly-built women that fly cargo gliders off the mountain slopes. Commerce on
Celedon is facilitated by another group of humans who operate airship (zeppelin) trade routes between the various chains of settled volcanic mountains.

The first part of Avians is a pretty standard "coming of age during basic training" story where the girls learn to both fly and to overcome their differences and work together as a team. You won't have to read the author's bio to figure out that Timothy Gwyn is a pilot. He spends a lot of time fleshing out the technical details of his alternate-universe aviation world.

About midway the story shifts gears. An accident strands the two girls on one of the airships and we finally meet the crew of hi-tech "Converted" humans who operate them. Unlike the ground dwellers
who get by with a pre-industrial level of technology, the airship crews are augmented with nanotechnology and robotics.

I liked that Gwyn does worldbuilding slowly and doesn't rely on huge infodumps, but I found the technological gap between the two groups kind of jarring. There are hints that maybe there are other factions controlling the tech embargo, and the suggestion that nanotech has caused disasters back on Earth.

I'm not sure why the Converted would even need to trade with the ground dwellers. Would immortal nanotech supermen need to exert so much effort to acquire foodstuffs and silk fabric? Maybe an eventual sequel will clear things up...

I enjoyed the book overall and hope to see a sequel. The setting is interesting and if you like flying the nuts and bolts details of Gwyn's world will appeal to your inner aviation geek. The characters are
likeable even if they are fairly sterotypical. It's always nice to read a sci-fi YA book that's not a love triangle set in a dystopian future. The book deserves better cover art, IMHO. ( )
  MinWage | Jun 17, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Very impressed, a wonderful debuet novel full of fun and adventure, set in a well thought out world with clear development and sensible eye for how things really work. It's very clever. Technically this is probably SF, but it's much more character driven, with little technology at all, setting a bit steampunky, without the faux victoria, or the steam. SF crossover fantasy or something.

Some far flung colony has developed a basic civilisation on a giant world. Giant worlds have drawbacks - high gravity means the only habitable zones are most of the way up mountains, if you're lucky there's a survivable pass between neighbouring mountain communities, but most are completely isolated from each other. Metals and minerals of any form are hard to come by. Petroleum is unknown (although presumably must be present deeper down). There is trade between them though for a fleet of a few huge airships ply their careful way around the world. Rather than landing each community trades with the airship by means of a school of gliders. These aren't the swaggering macho pilots you'd possibly expect though, for mass is everything, and only the smallest and lightest can manage to fly - young girls. There's no prestige, instead the school recruits from runaways, criminals and anyone desperate enough to risk their life on a daily basis. Despite the Chief Pilots best intentions gliding is dangerous, and someday everyone has to fly on their own.

The book opens with a potentially ill-advised passage of a young girl refusing to eat, and generally starving herself - given the issues surrounding girls, body image and dieting, it could have been stressed a lot more that she wasn't doing it to be 'beautiful' but to make herself ill and unattractive to suitors. It may still be a trigger issue for some of the intended YA audience. The girl in question is potentially heir to her families silk fortunes - if she can conceive a female child. But the prospect of being married to someone she doesn't know, even it brings her authority, fills her with dread, and so on the night her older sister's birthing pains fill the house with screams she runs away. Within the household is Mel, a cooks' assistant. She can't believe that anyone would choose not to eat food, and takes it as a personal insult. Especially when she's denied similar chances. She's part of the party sent out to search for Raisa, but rather than return home to face more punishment for Raisa's actions, she too is recruited to the newest squad of the Aviens. Their chief pilot is known as Corvin, for they've all left their birth names behind, and take on those of the squad they form. Corvin's job in addition to being the best pilot is to try and keep them all alive. She's the last of her squad, and doubt is an every present enemy.

We follow the three main characters as the girls grow into their role, the training and camaraderie that will keep the alive, and the tensions that could kill them all. Finally the squad are ready for their first flights, and the first chance to Rendezvous with an airship. Little is known about the airships. The crew are 'Converted' and don't talk to anyone on the planet. Ever. All is known is that if you're dying, the avians can fly you up in their gliders, known as Mercy or Angel flights, and you'll never be seen again - but almost anything can be cured.

The story progresses in leaps and bounds setting the scene in training and then jumping forward to the next challenge. It's clear that time has passed, but never stated how long, and sometimes feels a little disjointed. However this works very well at changing the typical YA, youths growing up in a strange school, to a more adult tone, life happens, make your choices and move on. It's not just about the learning, but also the achieving.

In a similar vein I was initially unsure about the inclusion of Corby's viewpoint, it kept intruding into the school experience of the two main protagonists. But as the story develops it becomes clear that she isn't the 'Bad Guy' there is no enemy, staying alive is the only challenge. And so Corby's view added gravitas and reflection, maturity and doubt and became a more nuanced and better story because of it.

There's hardly anything to criticise, it really was an excellent story. The pacing is great the characters are clever and interact well and believably. The matriarchal society isn't there to make a point, or get in the way, it's just another way of living. The technology is clever, and the world building is really excellent, delivered in just the right amounts and places. I'd have liked more details - how does trade happen with little communication? what about the rest of the base? Why isn't there anyone mining for metals etc. but that's just because I became so involved with it all.

Really an excellent book, thoroughly recommended, and an author to watch out for. This is his debuet novel, so I'm hoping for many more. ( )
  reading_fox | Jun 7, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Book review of Avians by Timothy Gwyn
Book review by Don Doell

A very impressive debut YA Sci-Fi novel. Mr. Gwyn has used his fascination with flight and alternative worlds to good effect. Avians tells the story from 3 points of view: the heroine, Raisa, a kitchen apprentice, Mel and Chief Corby, the Chief Pilot of the Avians of Mount Nufuji on the planet Celadon. The action is fast-paced with a taut plot line. Gwyn’s world is one in which a thicker atmosphere forces the inhabitants to live away from sea level as it is too hot to comfortably exist there, yet provides a comfortable habitable zone as one climbs to higher altitudes.
Celadon is encircled by a system of Saturn-like rings, has extensive oceans and few other features noted. I can say though that although it is volcanic, the author notes that few metals are available for exploitation. Thus the inhabitants have developed their technology with virtually no metals. Knives are ceramic, for example and the gliders of the avians are made of fabric on bamboo frames.
Although the inhabitants are originally from Earth, it was after a catastrophic event that made necessary a separation of two groups; the naturals and the converted. The third group of space travellers is not defined at all but must include both of the former groups with perhaps other distinctions? Perhaps a follow up novel will provide other hints.
I was impressed by the characterization as the various people do have sufficient depth to become individuals in most cases. I found myself caring about what happened to them. The settings whether in the palatial home from which all 3 main protagonists come, the airfield or the airship are all well drawn. The plot too moves at a rapid but not frenetic pace and the denouement does adequately wrap things up...although I feel this is the weakest element of the novel.
In fact, I eagerly hope for a continuation of this novel so that this world can be more completely fleshed out. Whether Raisa, Mel or Corby are maintained as the protagonists or new protagonists are brought in will be a matter for the author to decide on, but I hope that Mr. Gwyn would favour us with more stories of Celadon. ( )
  thedenathome | Jun 3, 2017 |
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