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Review: The Meaning Wars – Michelle Browne

The Meaning Wars - Michelle Browne - Meaning Wars

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera

Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild

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About The Book

Worlds collide and peace shatters in Book 3 of The Meaning Wars…

On the way to a new wormhole-building gig, Crystal and her husband Jai fight over the future of their family. But the safe haven of their base is paradise compared to Pluto.

Recovering from her imprisonment, Sarah and her cousin Toby try to scrape their lives back together and stay out of trouble on the icy planetoid. Rebel leader Patience Ngouabi’s actions have triggered a growing insurrection on the colony planet of Indus, and the shock waves have reached even the Solar system’s worlds.

Both Crystal and Sarah will have to decide between uneasy peace and constant danger – if they get to choose at all.

Warnings: this book contains references to abuse, sexual scenes, torture, and mental health issues. Reader discretion is advised.

The Review

At the author’s recommendation, I picked up book three of this six-part series collectively called “The Meaning Wars.” Having read and enjoyed this installment of Michelle Browne’s self-styled “Queer Space Opera,” I would recommend starting with book one (And the Stars Will Sing)—simply because a lot is revealed in this fascinating, plot-driven story that might spoil the fun of the previous two.

Now, I’m not sure I get the “queer” part of Ms. Browne’s title, since (as an admittedly antediluvian Kinsey 6) there was barely a hint of same-sex yearnings here. For most readers on PRG, I’d imagine, this makes no difference, because Browne’s smart, dryly humorous storytelling immediately draws the reader into her fantastic futuristic world.

The central characters in this volume are Crystal Weiss and Sarah White. Crystal is a Mindsearcher for HuCon, the corporate abbreviation of the Human Conglomerate—the Earth-originated space colony development organization. Crystal and her husband Jai are on a mission, traveling through space as part of their jobs. Sarah, on the other hand, who is an old friend of Crystal’s, is working as a barmaid in a colony on Pluto. She is on the run, but why or from whom we don’t discover right away.

The author creates a vivid setting for the overlapping stories of these two young women in a world expanded as far as our imaginations could possibly go – clearly the legacy of Star Trek and Star Wars and all that went before. The cozy mundanities of everyday human life are intermixed with a cosmopolitan vision of an interplanetary life, humans interacting professionally and personally with a whole host of non-human species, whose cultures now form a normal part of the human experience.

The darker side to this story is the indelible human tendency to restrict and judge, an aspect of human culture that puzzles all non-human species. This is where Sarah and Crystal’s lives re-connect, as the shadow of a fabricated human moral order pushes into the natural ecumenism and diversity of space.

I’m being intentionally vague about this, because it needs to be discovered by the reader. Let’s just say that the author creates a particularly creepy combination of Puritanism and corrupted “healthy lifestyle” mantras recognizable to us all. If it wasn’t so scary, it would be funny.

Star Trek, back in the day, was visionary—but it was a vision that carried with it the shared belief that we (i.e. Americans, and hence Earth) were benevolent and wise, and were out to share our wisdom with the rest of the universe. In a world where few of us believe so innocently anymore, Michelle Browne’s more shadowy vision is both apt and unnerving.

Five stars.

The Reviewer

Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City. 

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