I usually give bad books ample opportunity to improve before dropping them. Short stories I’ll skip after only one or two boring pages, but books usually get 50, even 100.
Not this one. The 8-page prologue was enough.
The premise is that humans colonised a planet called Erna about a thousand years before Black Sun Rising begins. Then, due to problems, their contact with other humans was cut-off, leaving the people of Erna to fend for themselves. It’s a pretty well-used scifi trope, which hasn’t stopped authors like Maureen McHugh doing excellent jobs of it. This, however, is not an excellent job. Not even a passable one.
Look, I don’t expect every scifi novel to have the cultural depth and well-crafted thoughtfulness of Mission Child, although I certainly wish more did. I just… can authors give just a moment’s thought to what cultures in the future will look like? How, in some ways, they will be fundamentally not like ours? How the people in them will face different problems as well as familiar problems? How the people will think similarly and differently to us? I am coming to really appreciate a well-thought-out future-culture, as in Mission Child, as in certain aspects of China Miéville’s Embassytown (although other aspects, such as the Anglo-dominance, are questionable), as in Liz Williams’ Winterstrike (matriarchies on the moon!), as in Kameron Hurley’s amazing God’s War and Infidel (again, not without their problems, but HOMG my love for these books is a burning thing, and partly because she has put so much thought into how those future-cultures will work).
So, Black Sun Rising.
After however many hundreds/thousands of years it took humans to reach and colonise Erna, after a thousand years of isolation, the society depicted in the prologue is… pseudo-medieval Europe.
That’s just not even possible or logical or anything approaching sense. Thousands of years in the future and the culture goes back to medieval Europe, complete with castles, an organised church (called the church, even), what looks like a medieval-ish class hierarchy, medieval-ish dress, horses (sorry, unhorses)? And, naturally, everyone appears to be white. I can believe a reversion to a simpler way of living, as in Mission Child – it is practical, in such a harsh environment, to live as Janna’s people do, in common with many Arctic peoples on our world – but there’s a certain kind of complexity in the social organisation of medieval Europe that doesn’t organically grow from the environment; it is not the only good option, far from it. So, why? Why medieval Europe? Why not something new? The only explanation I can reach is a complete and utter lack of imagination on the author’s part, not to mention a side-order of that specifically Anglophonic presumption that the future will be utterly ours.
And that is why I will not be reading any more of Black Sun Rising.