Monday, October 15, 2012

Singing the Dogstar Blues by Alison Goodman

Seventeen-year-old Joss is a rebel -- the daughter of a famous newscaster and a sperm donor; a wild girl who can play a mean harmonica; a student of time travel at the prestigious Centre for Neo-Historical Studies. This year, for the first time, the Centre has an alien student -- Mavkel, from the planet Choria. And Mavkel has chosen Joss, of all people, as his roommate and study partner.
Joss is less than thrilled to have her freewheeling lifestyle ruined by the high-tech security surrounding Mavkel, and alarmed by the danger he seems to attract -- an assassin and an anti-alien lobby are the least of it. Still, she is intrigued by Mavkel and his heritage, because the Chorians are a harmonizing species of twins who communicate through song. What better partner for a demon harmonica player?
Then Mavkel gets sick. First, it seems to be a simple cold, but Joss soon realizes it's far more -- Mavkel is pining for his lost twin, and his will to live is draining away. The only way Joss can help is by breaking the Centre's strictest rules... and that means going back in time.
Singing the Dogstar Blues is a genre-breaking mix of humor, science fiction, mystery, and adventure that will keep readers eagerly turning the pages.

~Print copy (from the library), 261 pages
Published: 1998 by Viking

This book was pretty good. I expected something less, but I got something more.

Joss is a spirited rebel-child. Her mother is too busy to notice and since she was concieved in a petri dish, she doesn't know her father. She hangs out at a local coffee place/bar with the owner, Lenny. She's been kicked out of a dozen schools, and the Centre is probably her last bet.

Then along comes Mavkel, who chooses her as his partner before the Centre's head professor can kick her out. Mavkel is a lonely alien, an outcast of his race because he survived and his twin didn't. The Chorians are a telepathic bunch, and now that Mavkel is an outcast, he's on the brink of suicide from the loneliness of his own mind.

The two become friends, despite Joss's privacy requirements. Then Mavkel gets sick. He is dying from loneliness, and unless Joss can "join minds" and become telepathic with him, he will die.

This book was quite well-told. The worlds are amazing - both the advanced-technological Earth and the alien planet Choria. The characters were just the right side of shady and suspicious.

The only problem I had with it is slight, and probably not too noticeable unless you're a voice freak like me -- Goodman used passive voice somewhat frequently. You know:"he was doing" "they had been doing". That sort of thing. Again, minor, one of those things your English teacher reviews every year.

From the summary, it seemed like this would be a romantic book, and I was reluctant to pick it up, but in the end, this book was not. It's all action and Joss and a cool university for time traveling. I give this a four. I'm reluctant to give it a five simply because I'm not too much a fan of sci-fi or passive voice. Still a lovely book.

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