>> Tuesday, March 01, 2011
TITLE: Local Custom
AUTHOR: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
TYPE: Sci fi / fantasy
SERIES: If I understand it correctly, this is a sort of prequel to the Liaden series.
REASON FOR READING: I bought it ages ago because of the review at AAR. I picked it up at random last January when I was back in Uruguay for a visit.
Master trader Er Thom knows the local custom of Liaden is to be matched with a proper bride, and provide his prominent clan Korval with an heir. Yet his heart is immersed in another universe, influenced by another culture, and lost to a woman not of his world. And to take a Terran wife such as scholar Anne Davis is to risk his honor and reputation. But when he discovers that their brief encounter years before has resulted in the birth of a child, even more is at stake than anyone imagined. Now, an interstellar scandal has erupted, a bitter war between two families-galaxies apart-has begun, and the only hope for Er Thom and Anne is a sacrifice neither is prepared to make...I've read excellent reviews of Local Custom, and Anne McCaffrey's foreword was glowing. But for me, it started out badly and stayed bad enough that I really didn't feel like going on.
The basic plot is that Anne is from Earth, Er Thom is from Liaden. They met at some sort of conference and had a passionate affair. It's been a few years, but Er Thom can't forget Anne. His culture requires him to partner a proper bride and have a child (give his genes to his clan, or something like that), and his mother is piling on the pressure (very real pressure, this, rather than your typical mum's nagging). Before he makes any decisions, Er Thom decides he needs to seek out Anne once again. But when he finds her, it turns out she has a little human souvenir from their previous encounter...
So, first scene, Er Thom meeting with his mother. Yes, she's got the power to make things very uncomfortable for him, but he didn't have to been such an emo, doormat wimp about it! But ok, he decides to do his own thing and runs off to find Anne. Cool, sounded promising, but then...
Anne turned out to be an idiot. Er Thom shows up, they're talking and then their child comes in. Does Anne get flustered? Does she try to find the best way to tell Er Thom, knowing that this is going to be a great big shock for him? Nope, our dear Anne happily introduces the boy to Er Thom, telling him this is his son (she's even given him Er Thom's last name). The poor man is quite upset and the idiot woman has absolutely no idea why. Obliviously, she explains that she had wanted to have a child, and then when she met Er Thom she decided it would be better to have that child be a friend's than to go to a sperm bank, and why is Er Thom so angry? She'll even change the child's last name, if that will help!
At this point, I'm thinking it's all well and good that this is a novel about culture clashes and the misunderstandings that can result from different assumptions and expectations, but Anne is the Terran here. Surely I'm supposed to understand her? But no, this twit is behaving as no sane person would, and the one I completely understand is Er Thom (wimp or not).
It didn't help that the writing style didn't appeal to me, either. The dialogue is very stilted... two people who had a passionate fling four years earlier and haven't seen each other since meet again and go all "oh, my dear friend!" and calling each other dearling and dear all over the place? Anne sounds more like my great aunt than a woman in her (I think) 30s. Maybe the dialogue is on purpose? I would understand it if it was only Er Thom who speaks that way (English is his second language, of course, and he doesn't normally speak it), but Anne, too?
MY GRADE: I'm sorry to say, this was a DNF.