Starting with Captain Amos January, who quickly loses it, and then the others who fought, schemed, and killed to get it, we travel around the complex, decadent, brawling, mongrelized, interstellar human civilization that the artifact might save or destroy. Collectors want the Dancer, pirates take it, rulers crave it, and all will kill, if necessary, to get it.
This is a thrilling yarn of love, revolution, music, and mystery, and it ends, as all great stories do, with shock and a beginning.
©2008 Michael Flynn; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"[A]n epic tale of adventure, intrigue, suspense and mystery....The plot evokes old-school space opera with its whirlwind pace, immense scope and twist ending, but cutting-edge extrapolation breathes vivid life into this universe of scoundrels, heroes and romantics." (Publishers Weekly)
This is my first experience of the author, Michael Flynn, having been recommended to me by a reputable SciFi review site. It is structured as a narrative between two individuals in the distant future, as one recounts a story from his past concerning a quest to retrieve a mysterious, alien and “powerful” artefact that may be influencing the politics of a small group of solar systems.
What I liked about the book was the detail of the universe that the author has created and the structure of various planetary societies, situated very far from a seldom-mentioned Earth. The writing is excellent and the storyline is interesting. Character development is good; there’s space travel and there is a believable blur between “good” and “bad”. I can highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys intelligent SciFi and quality storytelling.
"Excelent space opera"
The tale takes place in a universe where the losers in a galactic civil war were exiled across the "Rift" (an area through which very few of the "electric avenues" used for FTL travel pass.) About a thousand years later the refugees have built their own interstellar civilizations, although those in power fear the day when the victors in that old war will decide to cross the Rift and finish their conquest.
The amount of background detail that is gradually revealed is impressive, as is the careful balancing of factors to make a quest for an object of power seem reasonable. But those who desire a clear-cut ending may not be happy with this book. We are constantly being teased by new details, but even the big reveal at the end only leaves us with more questions and a desire for the sequels whose existence is hinted at in the final chapter.
The accent the reader applies to some characters' dialog is rather strong, but the characters in question are from planets that were originally all populated by a polyglot of refugees, many of which decided to adopt an Old Terran culture and accent as an affectation, so the over-emphasis is understandable and amusing.
I think this book will be enjoyed by fans of space opera, those who enjoy examples of extensive world building, and anyone who is intrigued the asking of questions, even if we're not always given all the answers to those questions.
"Elegant space opera"
The prose, world building, narration, and story are excellent.
This is not an easy listen, and I can see where some people would be turned off. You may have to listen to parts more than once.
But I dont mind listening to an audio book more than once, and I thought the writing style was worth it.
I hope Flynn writes some more books in this setting..
"The New Space Opera"
Space Opera had fallen on hard times in the 70s and 80s. The galaxy spanning empires didn't seem credible anymore -- how could a civilization with such technology not achieve (avoid) Transcendence? Even the Foundation series grew long in the tooth.
Fortunately, a whole new generation of writers have revived the concept: Charles Stross, Vernor Vinge, Ken MacLeod, Peter Watts, Karl Schroeder, etc.
Now, Michael Flynn has joined this group with their fresh ideas and good stories.
The characters are indeed odd ball and the story goes all over the place, hiding the core mystery of both the characters and the story. What fun it is to have a good SF book combined with a mystery story.
If you like any of the above SF writers, you'll probably enjoy this book.
The January Dancer continues with Up Jim River, but is a stand-alone novel, not dependent on any other book in the series.
"An outstanding story"
Michael Flynn creates a fascinating blend of cultures, fragmentary histories, and characters. The narrative switches between a reluctant storyteller and his audience of one, and the events that unfolded surrounding the Dancer. Musical themes flow through the narrative, and the author provides a feeling much akin to musical themes and counterpoints throughout the story.
Several of the subplots are not fully explored, and several of the premises for the story require a significant suspension of disbelief such as a complete lack of technological and scientific innovation across far-flung interstellar civilizations. Nonetheless, the quality of the characters and the mysteries that unfold in the story make this a solidly enjoyable tale. I suspect a number of friends will be receiving this as a gift in the near future. Highly recommended.
"Didn't work for me"
Rarely can I not finish a book, even if I feel mixed about it. For this one both the author and the narrator combined to make this impossible for me to get very far in.
The author does eventually get around to supporting the premise described in the capsule review with some plot, but getting there involves a bunch of drawn out side trips which are hard to follow and seem to have little relevance, other than adding color to the author's universe which includes premises about science and culture that don't jell - especially how the expansion of earth cultures into specific worlds turns out.
This is where the narrator puts a major hole in the boat - and its not that he's not capable (i've listened to other things he's done), just not the right guy for this book. The cultural abstractions used by the author push the characters towards being heavily accented for the different societies (such as Irish or Indian), and the narrator just is not up to the task - he's not really good at any of them and there are quite a number of them, all badly overdone. If he had played it more lightly or a different reader had been involved, MAYBE this would have kept me going.
GIve it a pass.
"A Big Idea Space Opera - Epic but not overly epic"
One of my favorite series of books is Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos, reflecting the poem by John Keats first published in 1818. They are a sweeping, sometimes tortured but epic space opera.
January Dancer is akin to an abridged version of that type of epic. That is not a bad thing....as I wonder how many people actually finish the Cantos. While long and winding in epic style, it is one book. A story within a story, it starts with three themes and uses a good deal of analogy to music. I liked it. A number of clever side trips add to a great ending.
The narration is also quite a bit of fun. Rudnicki's heavy Irish efforts are worth the listen alone.
There are new ideas here -- but it is not so bizarre that it become inaccessible.
"Praiseworthy space opera"
Flynn delivers a respectable space opera in a grand style. The basic plot concerns the discovery of an alien artifact that appears as a "twisting stone" known as the dancer which possesses special powers. Much of the tale concerns various players in this universe vying for its ownership. The timeframe is far into the future when Earth has settled much of the spiral arm, but has also suffered its own collapse with loss of its collective memory. We are treated to multiple variations on Earth's former cultural heritage. As an added bonus, the story is related as a tale within a tale.
The sci-fi elements are mostly limited to interplanetary travel by unique physics due to rifts in the space time fabric that can be traversed like highways. There is a bit of biological manipulation as well. The only knock to the story is a lack of closure for most of the characters.
The narration is superb with an excellent reprisal of the primary storyteller. The multiple characters, along with extreme accents and unique vernacular peccadilloes demand close listening in order to follow the complex plot.
"Sweeping Space Epic"
An eclectic cast native to a detailed vision of the far future, wonderfully voiced and narrated in this audiobook. Some of the dialects used were indeed very 'thick' and hard to follow in this audio version, though I suspect the words would have been more inteligible if viewing the source work. I admit to losing the thread of the narrative more than once and rewinding to re-hear when characters lapsed into these odd modes of speech. The tale woven is richer for the many different fractious groups and the alliances and rivalries among them. The plot progresses at just the right pace, thanks to a nicely constructed format, allowing the author to apply the brakes as needed. This work is truly self-contained, it is a completely satisfying tale, and even if the author understandably chose to revisit this universe, one isn't required to buy another book for resolution. (I'm looking at you, OSC!)
"Okay I don't get it."
Love Stefan Rudnicki, great narrator, but Michael Flynn, this is the second book I've gotten from him and it is mediocre at best. Little dialogue, weak story, mediocre science. I usually support my Irish Brothers, however, this dude just is not that good. I am a Science fiction writer, and this guy does a lot of things that are just not that entertaining.
Oh....................I don't know, put in more dialogue, used words that did not smack of amateurism. Maybe, if he had actual good science to back up the scenes in the book. I am not impressed at all, he writes like Edgar Rice Boroughs, all description and little dialogue to move the story along. Crap I'm a better writer than he is, and that is not saying much.
Mr. Rudnicki is a master, I have heard him on most of Ben Bova's work, "The Planet series, etc. I enjoy Bova's work immensely, however Bova is not quite Heinlein, and Flynn is about half as good Bova, and that is being generous! I wish I could give Mr. Flynn a better review. Read the first chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses, and you will see what a GREAT Irish writer can do!
No, I am deeply saddened to say I wish that it were, I will have my priest say a prayer for poor Mr. Flynn.
I don't know what the bloody problem with My. Flynn is but, I wish he were better. I had a bad time with his other works too.
"Forming Space Society"
"The January Dancer" is the first book in the Tales of the Spiral Arm series and while it is written well from Michael Flynn, I'm not too sure where the story is going. I am assuming that the author is laying down the foundation of this space opera.
At a glance, January Dancer is a let down, but as I read it more and as I understand the storytelling, I get where the series is going. If you are looking for sci fi action with sonic booms, you won't get any of it in this book.
The first book is more about forming the outer space society. There is very little dialogue between the characters. Most of the story is told by narrative. It's a little dry at some parts, but I'm not giving up just yet and bought "Up Jim River", the next book in the series.
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