Friday, October 9, 2009

Crystal Healer

I had the book Crystal Healer with me while waiting for some kid event, and my daughter looked over at it and said "what on earth are you reading?" thinking it was some kind of new age book, from the title. In fact, though, it's science fiction and the healer does not use crystals to heal--she tries to heal the ailing crystals. Yeah. This is the tenth book in the "Stardoc" series by S.L. Viehl, and if you haven't read the previous ones, you're not ready for this one. There's quite a build-up.
(Previous Stardoc novels: Stardoc, Beyond Varallan, Endurance, Shockball, Eternity Row, Blade Dancer, Rebel Ice, Plague of Memory, Omega Games.)

If you have read the previous ones, though, this one has a tremendous payoff in terms of what happens to the main characters. The Stardoc, now calling herself Jarn, travels to a planet on which the natives live in primitive rural societies by choice, having disdained the technology of their forebears. One of her colleagues cautions the group of "healers" from the spaceship, telling them "The oKiaf have been exposed to advanced technology, so it is unlikely their healers have remained dependent on native treatments and religious rituals. Yet these will still be important to the people, and may be incorporated with what technology they continue to use."

Jarn and her husband Duncan have become functionally immortal without their consent, and their interest in understanding what the crystals are, how dangerous they can be, and how they work is tied up with their deliberations about their mortal daughter and beings on other worlds they feel some responsibility towards, one the larval form of a creature so fearsome that if anyone else knew it existed, it would be summarily destroyed--or at least an attempt would be made to destroy it. As they learn more about the dangers of the crystal, they discover that one world's translation of the word for it is "eternity" or the "afterlife."

There's an exciting space battle towards the end, complete with shape-shifters called Odnallak who assume the form of whatever you're most afraid of (like boggarts in the Harry Potter series). Part of the fun is seeing how the Odnallak appear to characters from various worlds--to Jarn, one appears as "six-legged death cat." To another character, it appears to be a blind, venom-spitting creature that can feel movements in the air. To another, it's a tusked animal. To Duncan, it's a fearsome warrior lizard from a race that once held him as a slave.

At the very end, some of the mysterious appearances in previous books are put into a new and fascinating context when the crystal appears to speak to Jarn. Finally this character, who I habitually react to as damaged from her years on a misogynist ice planet, fulfills her destiny. I could probably stop reading these books now, because this one provides an ending. But if Viehl comes out with any more, you know I'm going to be pouncing on them like, well, a six-legged death cat.

I'm afraid I'm like Ron Weasley about the form my boggart would take. I've always thought that what would wait for me in Room 101 (from 1984) wouldn't be rats in a cage they'd put on my face, but spiders in a cage they'd put on my feet. How about you--what form would your worst fear take?

13 comments:

kittiesx3 said...

Ticks. And I've lived it. I was in primary leadership training for the Army--our field training was at Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas right by the Arkansas river. Ticks, and chiggers and snakes oh my.

I ended up with massive amounts of ticks crawling all over me on our last day in the field. I didn't even realize it at first, other soldiers in my unit started brushing them off me. They crawled everywhere--on the sleeves of my BDUs, all over my rifle, you name it, they were there. If I hadn't been so freaking hot and tired, I probably would have run off shrieking into the river.

Fortunately I'd brought my own highly effective bug spray and had been spraying myself down regularly. I got exactly one bite. Somehow I don't think I'd have emerged from Room 101 so unscathed.

I'm not a fantasy fan, but you've classified the Stardoc series as sci-fi. Do you pinky swear it's sci-fi? If so, I'm going to go start reading that series.

The Lass said...

Another Bush presidency.

Jeanne said...

Elizabeth, I'm not a strict categorizer of SF vs Fantasy, but the Stardoc novels have different worlds visited by aliens in various kinds of spacecraft and requiring various kinds of healing depending on where their organs and tentacles are. The main character was originally created in a lab. It's not science like the biology in Joan Slonczewski's novels, but there's no magic. And the aliens don't tend to be cuddly. In fact, there are some cat aliens you'll enjoy.

Alison said...

Needles. You know that dream in the 3rd "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie where Freddie Krueger's claws turn into hypodermics? That would be it. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

readersguide said...

unrelated -- but I've tagged you

readersguide said...

Ha! I'm laughing at Laura's comment.

Anonymous said...

"I know your bottom / I know it with my great tap root/ I do not fear it/ for I have been there" - Sylvia Plath, "Elm"

I've botched the words, but I love the sentiment.

Being forced to witness any kind of cruelty to children -

-lemming

Jeanne said...

Ticks and Bush and needles, oh my!
Why is cruelty to a child worse than cruelty to an adult--asking the question reminds me of those old "baby on board" signs for cars.

Amanda said...

Hm, I think my boggart would be something more like Molly Weasley's, or possibly it would replicate me waking up from a coma or longterm memory loss to find years had passed without me knowing. Or starting to lose my memory. Or people not being able to understand me....

Jeanne said...

Amanda, yeah, those are bad ones. Not quite as visceral, but worse once you think about them.

kittiesx3 said...

I suppose I ought to add I wasn't actually a war-mongering sort of soldier. I was a musician--fear my oboe! I'll sing the enemy to death!

Jeanne said...

Do you still play the oboe? I gave up the trombone but still play violin in the local symphony orchestra.

kittiesx3 said...

Alas I don't. I developed a career-ending case of tendinitis while playing English horn at KU. As my physical therapist warned me, this has been a lingering situation and I've had to adapt by doing some tasks with my left hand -- computer mousing for example.