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Joan D. Vinge – The Snow Queen

Title: The Snow Queen
Author: Joan D. Vinge
Year: 1980

Writing new and expanded versions of old tales adds a new dimension to fiction. Joan D. Vinge’s The Snow Queen, based on H. C. Andersen’s tale with the same title, is an excellent example of this. For those of you not familiar with Andersen’s tale, it can be read at Project Gutenberg (in translation to English). Vinge has taken this fairly interesting story about a girl trying to find her playfellow who has been spirited away by the evil Snow Queen, and turned it into a full-fledged science-fiction novel. Not only does she keep the main elements from Andersen’s tale, but she also manages to intertwine them with her own ideas and concepts to form a unique story.

Moon and Sparks are two Summer children, Summer meaning that they are living off the sea, compared to the Winter people, who draw their wealth from the representatives of the interstellar Hegemony, occupying the northern parts of the planet. They fell that they are destined to live with each other forever. However, they get separated and Moon is forced to leave the planet entirely, and embark on a perilous journey in the physical universe as well as into her own psyche. Sparks becomes the consort of the Snow Queen reigning over Winter. They become more and more different as time goes by, but Moon still harbours a longing for her lost Sparks, but his memories are dazzled by the brightness of the Snow Queen’s brilliance.

The Snow Queen is well worth reading for many reasons. Firstly, I really like the parallels to Andersen’s tale (I read it piecemeal alongside Vinge’s novel). The result is a story which has obvious ties to the tale, but still stands on its own and functions very well as a novel. Secondly, the characters are brilliant, especially the Snow Queen herself. Such powerful, calculating and intelligent women have rarely been seen in science fiction literature. I could go on and list a few more brilliant characters, but let me instead just say that Vinge’s ability to create realistic and interesting (often female) characters is fabulous.

So why not more than the four snails I have decided to give The Snow Queen? Some parts are adequate and not brilliant, which blemishes my impression somewhat. For instance, the language is good, but not very good, and the story works, but is not highly interesting or unique. Also, the end feels drawn up, spending a lot of time describing things taking place after the main action has subsided. Still, I did enjoy this book very much and will not hesitate to read more books by the author.

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