Tuesday, February 17, 2009
SF Signal on Three Unbroken
Chris Roberson's Celestial Empire series continues to be a rich setting for telling enjoyable stories. In addition to numerous short fiction pieces (some of which are reviewed here), Roberson has written a few novels that highlight an important milestone of this intriguing alternate future history -- a future in which Imperial China has become a superpower and wages war with their frequent enemy, the Mexic Dominion.
The latest book, Three Unbroken, details the fight to reclaim the planet Fire Star (Mars) as seen through the eyes of a trio of fighters for the Dragon Throne's cause: Arati Amonkar, whose dream to fly drives her to become a pilot for the Interplanetary Fleet; Micah Carter, whose failure to pass the Imperial bureaucracy entrance exams leads him to serve in the Green Standard Army; and Niohuru, a privileged youth who eschews the repetitive boredom of everyday life for the glory of battle as part of the elite group of Imperial Bannermen.
In telling the story, Roberson's approach employs several levels of logic. The book is subdivided into 64 short chapters (or Hexagrams) and for each subtitle utilizes some combination of Air, Water, Mountain, Earth, etc. - each one with an accompanying pearl of wisdom (many of which escaped my meager mental facilities). The story itself is structured by evenly alternating viewpoints of the three principle characters, whose paths only rarely cross. In the early parts of the book (training and the first operation), each character gets one chapter before the viewpoint changes. In the middle part of the book (the second operation), two consecutive chapters are used to convey a character's viewpoint. Throughout the entire novel, each chapter progresses the individual story of the character and the overall story of the war. With all of this logical structure, one gets the impression that the author had this story completely mapped out from the start - prep work that gives the story a distinct beginning, middle and end.