Thursday, April 9, 2015

Song Of The Really Expensive Crystal

Grabbed this book literally on my way out the door for my trip last week.  I had a bunch of new books I was very excited about reading, but grabbed this one just because.  I'm glad I did 'cause as I was chilling at the airport awaiting my flight, eating a big girl lunch I had the urge to read this exact book!  Thanks to the literary fates, I had it with me YAY!  The book is Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey the first of the Crystal series.  Was this the perfect book for the moment?  Find out, but first as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Killashandra Ree has just found out that she will never realize her dream of becoming a star concert singer on her home world of Fuerte.  She has spent the last ten years training, only to be told that she has an unbearable burr in a specific range that pretty much will never be fixed.  Understandably upset Killashandra takes off to find adventure when she runs into a man who takes her on a whirlwind tour of her own planet, flashing credit (this books version of money) and status where ever he goes.  Turns out that he is a Crystal Singer, a rare individual with perfect pitch and total recall.  After an accident render's her companion essentially a vegetable, Killashandra decides to become a Crystal Singer herself.  Despite (or maybe because of) numerous warnings against it, Killashandra travels to Ballybran, the headquarters of the Heptite Guild, for which the Crystal Singers are trained and work.  During her research Killashandra finds the planet is under an isolation edict, with no one being allowed to set foot on the planet until full disclosure has happened.  Still undeterred Killa and several others start the process.  We follow the potential recruits as we learn about the Crystal industry.  We learn that as humans expand into the universe, communication has become an issue, as the distances create a time lag.  The discovery of the unique crystal of Ballybran has solved that problem and provided many other uses as well.  This has led the Heptite Guild and it's members to be able to become quite well off and also amass prestige.  Of course with all good things there is a downside and that is why the planet is isolated.  It is revealed that any human who lands on the planet is instantly exposed to a spore.  If a person fully adjusts to the spore, they are rewarded with sharper senses and a long life...sounds great right?  Well there are two HUGE downsides, the first is even if you make a full adaption, a person has to constantly return to Ballybran to recharge the spore, apx every 400 days at a maximum, this means you can never go more then 200 days away from the planet.  If a person fails to return, the ageing process proceeds very rapidly and you can age hundreds of years in seconds.  The other danger is that you will not make a full adaption and will never be able to leave the planet again.  There is no real way to determine 100% who will  make the adaption and who will only partially adapt so there is a real risk.   After this has all been revealed, Killa and her fellow hopefuls go ahead and land on the planet.  While they wait for the spore to adapt they learn all about Crystal, the cutting, the tools, the value, the types, all kinds of stuff.  They also learn about the devastating storms called mach storms that can seriously hurt or kill a Singer.  Killa makes a full transition and turns out to have an affinity for the super rare, super valuable black crystal.  She also catches the eye of Lanzecki, the Guild Master in both a professional and personal capacity.  Killa finishes her training and gets out on the ranges, finding and Singing black crystal on her first trip out.  To get her off planet during the devastating Passover storms, she is sent to install her crystals, finding herself desperate to get back to Ballybran, Killa completes her full cycle as a Crystal Singer.
This book was perfect for when I was reading it, it had a lot of travel, a lot of discovery and a lot of awesome, and reading it at O'Hare Airport with it's big open windows and gray skies was the perfect setting for it.  I have to say, I am sometimes hard pressed to explain why I reread this book so often as it really does not have a plot.  It has a beginning, middle and end, but it is much more about a world and industry then it is anything else.  Ms. McCaffrey in case you have forgotten is one of my absolute favorite authors and this book highlights one of her strengths and that is world building.  This book has top notch world building and gives you a glimpse of an almost unlimited universe, all while detailing what amounts to mining and industry.  This book should not be as interesting as it is, as it is full of technical details and procedures...but I don't know...I still find it fascinating.  As much as this book is about world building, there are some very strong characters in here as well.  This author is great at giving everybody, even minor characters a believable and distinct personality, and she does it by showing, not telling so that you don't feel bogged down by descriptions of people.  Killashandra is of course the most fully developed and I identify with her very closely.  She comes from a theatre arts background and see's things in those terms, which with my background works perfectly.  She also likes to know things, and be the best at what she does.  She get's frustrated when people keep things from her, and she gets fed up with theory very quickly...yet she is a personal research fiend, all things I relate to.  Killa herself acknowledges her tendency to get conceited and tries to make a conscious effort to reign it in, but quickly gets frustrated with petty people.  I love a lot of the support characters who teach Killa and her fellow recruits their jobs, they all are long lived and have their own little quirks and talents.  I did find the relationship between Lanzecki and Killa a bit forced and convenient, since Killa is so good at everything she does, this relationship just made her journey a tad to easy for my taste.  Near the end when Killa heads out to install the black crystal there is a bunch of political type references made that kind of come out of no where and to me just muddy it a bit, but I think she was trying to set up the whole universe so eh, I know that Ms. McCaffrey use some of her own experiences as a singer and theatre person to inspire this book, and I feel that really comes through.  Killashandra and her story feel very personal and I really enjoyed that.  Overall I would recommend this book for any McCaffrey fans, science fiction fan, or world building fan.  I give it 7 out of 10 dodecahedrons.
What aspect of a book is most important to you?  What industry can you read a lot about?  How into random stuff do I get?

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