One of the joys of SciFiMonth is a big buddy read. For our classic read-along, I’d like to introduce you to Golden Witchbreed, an epic of knife-edge (and knifepoint) diplomacy, beguiling world-building and cultural tension as humanity tries to persuade the post-apocalyptic world of Orthe to open its doors to the galaxy.
Confession time: I had thought to host a Dune read-along this SciFiMonth, because there’s a sexy-looking dramatisation hitting the big screen soon.
Sorry, Dune fans.
Whilst we were discussing options, I instead sold my co-conspirator Lisa on buddy reading a book that made a huge impression on me a few years ago. And what’s better than introducing one friend to a book you love? Introducing lots of you! (if none of you care to join us, then please ignore the screaming from the back cabin, it’s just your SciFiMonth hosts having FEELINGS at books again)
Golden Witchbreed – Mary Gentle
We are not alone. Humanity has mastered faster than light travel, and discovered that life abounds across the Milky Way. Some of it is more pleased to see us than others.
The Luddite rulers of Orthe are reluctant to throw open their doors when humanity comes calling. Descended from the slaves of a high-tech race who nearly destroyed their planet, the Ortheans have turned their back on technology, living in thousands of small communities scattered across the Southland. The offworlders threaten the fragile balance of cut-throat democracy that keeps the peace.
After Earth’s envoy is killed, expendable junior diplomat Lynne Christie finds herself promoted in his place. When she makes unexpected progress at court, she is invited to make her case for contact to the Hundred Thousand directly. Beguiled by Orthe’s culture and people, keen to prove herself to her superiors, it’s too good an offer to refuse.
But there are factions determined to keep humanity at bay, willing to stop at nothing to preserve Orthe’s isolation. Lynne has found much to love on Orthe: now she must find a way to survive it.
This is low-tech space opera that is big on world-building, fluid on sexuality and gender, and haunted by weapons of mass destruction. One for fantasy readers looking to dip their toe into scifi, and scifi readers interested in social rather than technological narratives.
As usual, the format is a casual buddy read – pace yourself to the weekly discussion, or zoom to the end if you Need To Know What Happens.
I’ll post questions each week as prompts for discussion. Feel free to answer them on your blog, tag @SciFiMonth as you tweet or pile into the Goodreads group to share your reactions (but please, no spoilers for future weeks or for the sequel Ancient Light).
- Friday 6th November | Part One & Two
- Friday 13th November | Part Three – Part Five
- Friday 20th November | Part Six & Seven
- Friday 27th November | Part Eight
You’re not obliged to post on a Friday, but please don’t post any sooner to give the crew a chance to all reach a similar point before we share our spoilery thoughts. I’ll aim to post prompts on Goodreads on Sunday evening each week – but if anyone else fancies hosting a week, you’d be more than welcome!
Fancy reading and blogging with us? Leave a comment here or on Goodreads and I’ll make sure to include you in the link-ups! Otherwise, just dive into the comments each week to join the discussion.
Our read-along of Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott will no longer be scheduled during SciFiMonth – life in 2020 has got in the way. However, it isn’t cancelled, merely postponed: save a space in your calendar for early in 2021! Full details will be announced in November.
SciFiMonth readers in the UK still have a chance to win a copy of the gorgeous Head of Zeus hardback, out on October 1st. For a chance to enter the giveaway draw, sign up for SciFiMonth and post about the event before October 16th.