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This Alien Shore by C. S. Friedman

This Alien Shore

by C. S. Friedman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9831513,940 (3.98)38
Epic science fiction peopled with unique and compelling characters from one of the most exciting new talents of the decade. Jamisia, a young girl protected by biological brain-ware and troubled by multiple voices in her head, flees her comfortable life on a satellite when corporate raiders destroy the entire colony. To her horror, she learns that they were looking for her. Launched into the intrigues of the mysterious Gueran guild, mutant star-pilots who have a stranglehold on galactic commerce, Jamisia is desperate to avoid capture, and must form uncertain alliances with exotic strangers. Yet, as a rogue computer virus wreaks havoc across the galaxies it seems that humanity's future rests in her hands: but first she must unlock the deadly secret hidden inside her head. Against the rich and compelling backdrop of this epic story the author has succeeded in creating a truly unique character in Jamisia and placed her in a novel of fantastic diversity, and breathtaking possibility. and breathtaking possibility.… (more)
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This Alien Shore is a standalone science fiction book. I'd read probably 25% before I suddenly realized I was reading a cyberpunk book and actually enjoying it. It’s obviously cyberpunk from the beginning, really, it’s just that the tone is so different from most I’ve read and I hadn’t paused before then to try to categorize what I was reading. Some of the main characters are different from what I typically expect in cyberpunk, the politics and philosophies are also pretty different, and the world-building is different. I often feel like authors of cyberpunk overdo their world-building in an attempt to make it “punky”(?) enough, ending up with a big mess that is neither coherent nor logical. I really liked the world-building in this book. It was creative and detailed and, best of all, it made sense.

In the beginning, we’re introduced to a teenage girl named Jamisia as her tutor comes to help her escape an attack on her home habitat. There seem to be a lot of mysteries surrounding Jamisia, one of which is that there’s apparently something in her head that people want and she doesn’t know why. She has to flee by herself, and people who are a lot smarter and more experienced than she is are trying very hard to find her. This isn’t the entire story, and Jamisia is only one of several POV characters. The book alternates between her story and another plot about a computer virus that’s started killing spaceship pilots.

Despite being published in 1998, this didn’t feel dated to me. The only piece of technology that broke my immersion a bit was the wellseeker. Everybody apparently has a wellseeker inside of them that monitors their vital signs and offers to provide them with chemicals to help stabilize them. For example, if they’re scared, it can give them a sedative, in appropriate amounts to take the edge off depending on just how scared they are. I sometimes got distracted wondering about the logistics of that, which weren’t discussed at all. How do all these fluids get replenished? How much can the wellseeker hold and how often does it need to be replenished for the average person? Is information tracked when an individual’s wellseeker gets replenished? If so, that information would surely get leaked or hacked on occasion and used against a person by their political enemies.

I was completely captured by Jamisia’s part of the story from the beginning, but my interest fluctuated with the more traditionally cyberpunky parts, at least in the first half. A little bit into the second half, the pace really picked up and I was engrossed by all the chapters. I debated a bit between 3.5 or 4 stars, but I think I enjoyed it enough to give it the full 4.

Just a few more random comments for the spoiler tags:
For some reason split personality stories have always appealed to me. I especially liked that Jamisia could communicate with the other personalities and that they had to work together and share her body using their different strengths. I also liked that, while some of her personalities were quite smart, I didn’t feel like any of them were over-the-top, unrealistically smart or skilled. I loved that the author didn’t go for the stereotypical ending where the individual personalities all merge and live happily ever after. I didn’t really expect that to happen given the themes in the book, but I would have been very disappointed to be wrong.

I did think it was a bit stereotypical that the belligerent protector-type personality manifested as a male. Girls can be belligerent and protective too, and it’s not like Derik seemed to have any special fighting prowess when he was in control of the body. He was still hampered by Jamisia’s lack of strength and didn’t seem to have any special tricks that females might learn to use against a stronger opponent.

It was also a bit too convenient maybe that the chips given to Jamisia by her tutor only revealed things slowly enough to keep the suspense going, but I bought into it within the context of the story.
( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Jan 6, 2020 |
This is an author who knows how to tell a story. It sweeps you up from the moment you read the very first page and speeds you along until you turn the last page. At which point, if your anything like me, you won't want it to be over. The plot never lags, the characters are three-dimensional, and the emotions are spot on. It even manages to make some poignant observations about humanity. All in all, it's an excellent story. ( )
  kjpmcgee | Sep 9, 2015 |
Pretty good book. Good, complex story. I really like the idea of Gueran social structure.

My only complaint is the author's tendency to switch rapidly from one POV to another. Or perhaps that was 3rd person omniscient POV. In any case, it's disorienting at times. Fortunately, it's usually only employed at the beginning of chapters. ( )
  lavaturtle | Dec 31, 2014 |
4.5 stars Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.

This Alien Shore is another outstanding science fiction novel by an author who I??ve come to respect immensely for her extraordinarily creative worlds, fascinating ideas, complex characters, and elegant prose. If thereƒ??s one flaw (from my perspective) with Friedmanƒ??s work, itƒ??s a difficulty in actually liking many of her characters, but even if you find that itƒ??s hard to sympathize with them, itƒ??s also hard not to admire them, or at least to see them as superb creations.

I think many readers will, however, sympathize with Jamisia, the protagonist of This Alien Shore. Sheƒ??s on the run from unknown enemies who want the bioware thatƒ??s in her brain. She canƒ??t feel safe anywhere because she has no idea why her brain is so valuable, or to whom. Is it the Guerran guild that oversees all intergalactic traffic? An Earth corporation who wants to break the guildƒ??s monopoly? Maybe itƒ??s a terrorist from the Houseman Variants ƒ?? those former humans who were mutated by Earthƒ??s first attempts to break out of the galaxy and now want to punish their Terran ancestors by isolating them.

As Jamisia is trying to evade her unidentified pursuers, she also has to deal with the extra people who live in her head. Humans on Earth have managed to cure all mental disorders, but Jamisia, for some reason, has not been cured of her multiple personality disorder ƒ?? or perhaps her condition has been purposely created. If Earth finds out that sheƒ??s not normal, they will take her into custody.
Fortunately, Jamisia meets a few people who can give her some help, though theyƒ??ve got their own issues to deal with. In particular, Phoenix the hacker is trying to trace the origin of Lucifer, a computer virus thatƒ??s killing his friends when theyƒ??re hooked into the Outernet. Could it be a government plot designed to take out all those Moddies whoƒ??ve got illegal bioware installed in their brains? But Lucifer is not only stalking hackers ƒ?? itƒ??s invading the minds of the pilots who guide spaceships through the Ainniq, the dangerous crack in space/time thatƒ??s full of monsters but is the only way to travel to other galaxies. Could the virus be linked to Jamisiaƒ??s bioware?

Besides the exciting plot, the most impressive part of This Alien Shore is Friedmanƒ??s characterization of Jamisiaƒ??s multiple personalities. This was sometimes funny (especially when the emo boy took over), but it was also incredibly eerie. Also well done was Phoenix the hacker. Since I have a son with this type of personality, I can attest that she gets it just right ƒ?? the arrogance, ambition, curiosity, single-mindedness, and dogged determination to solve a computer programming problem, even if it means ignoring all other aspects of life such as eating.

In many ways, C.S. Friedmanƒ??s work reminds me of William Gibsonƒ??s ƒ?? unique settings, complex and fascinating (though not necessarily likeable) characters, cool ideas and technology, a smart and savvy style. Friedmanƒ??s plots are always tighter, though. If they havenƒ??t yet, Gibson fans should give Friedman a try.

I listened to Audible Frontierƒ??s production of This Alien Shore which was narrated by Kathleen McInerney. She was new to me, but I thought she was perfect for this story. She has a nice voice and cadence and was convincing in her various roles. This Alien Shore is highly recommended, especially in audio format. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
harder sci-fi than I usually read, traveller-with-a-secret-past premise ( )
  EhEh | Apr 3, 2013 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Friedman, C. S.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
McInerney, KathleenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whelan, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is for my mother, Nancy Friedman, who died while it was being written. [First of 22 lines.]
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In a world where data is the coin of the realm, and transmissions are guarded by no better sentinels than man-made codes and corruptible devices, there is no such thing as a secret. —DR. KIO MASADA, "The Enemy Among Us": Keynote address to the 121st Outworld Security Conference (holocast from Guera)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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