Monday, December 11, 2006

Speaking Out: Odin's Queen by Susan Price (London: Simon and Schuster, 2006)

In the first book, Odin's Voice, Kylie the Bonder became Odinstoy Godspeaker, while Affroditey spoiled child of selfish parents became Kylie the Bonder in the same family as the first Kylie. At the end of the book Odinstoy and Affey ran to Mars, taking with them Odinstoy;'s son, Apollo, who had been apropriated by her employers. See here for the write up.

Now Odinstoy arrives on Mars with Affey and Apollo, renamed Odinsgift. They have arrived with Odinstoy dressed as a man but not denying that she is a woman, and Affey listed as her "sister and wife". On Mars Odinstoy causes consternation by hugging a bonder in the greeting party, and questioning why Mars's Odinites have bonders--they have never really thought about the problem. From there she and Affey go to a small provincial non-conformist town where Odin worshippers have retreated to escape the discrimination of the Church of Mars--a graeco-roman pantheon which claims all other gods as merely aspects of its own.

While Odinstoy is off exploring Mars and its underbelly, Affey screws up. Lonely, still spoilt, hating Odinsgift who is a sullen, none too bright child, she gets involved with a young man who promises to marry her. Much later it will turn out that he is a spy for the Church of Mars and unfortunately, Affey has spilled the beans: in a tv interview the head of the Church of Mars reveals that Affey is an escaped bonder and that she and Odinstoy have kidnapped Odinsgift (the law saying that he belongs to his genetic father who is free). Affey and Odinstoy run, taking wiht them Odinsgift and John, a bonder boy who Affey has bought and Odinstoy has freed. They take refuge in a maintenance tower protected by the young of the suburb, but when the stand off comes, it is Odinstoy who walks out of the airlock--a seeming impossibility as the lock is programmed to remain closed if it cannot detect breathing technology.

Some of the allegory is a bit heavy handed. Affey is betrayed by Jason/Judas who is in it for the money. Odinstoy walks out of the airlock because she knows that Odin has finished with her, she is no longer the toy of Odin. When she is gone, myths about her disappearance rise up quickly. But the story remains powerful because Price gives the relationship between Affey and Odinstoy momentum of its own.

Affey really is in love with Odinstoy. In her world, men were what you did as a career. She has no training for anything other than being a very expensive wife. She doesn't cheat on Odinstoy for pleasure, but for security and wealth. This may seem abhorrent, but as Price portrays it, its actually quite sensible. And more interesting is that Odinstoy is brutal and violent. If Affey runs to Jason it is in part because Odinstoy is an abuser with the best of excuses "I do this for Odin". Price manages to avoid lecturing but there are many, many uncomfortable moments.


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