Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: On Gossamer Wings

Title: Drumlin Circus – On Gossamer Wings (Copperwood Press Double #1)
Author: Jeff Duntemann and James R. Strickland
Genre: science fiction
Price: $11.99 (paperback) $2.99 (Kindle)
Publisher: Copperwood Media, LLC
ISBN: 978-1932084016
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

From 1952 to 1973, Ace Books published their “Ace doubles” – two short science fiction novels bound back to back in the same volume. Each book had its own cover, upside-down from the other book. For various reasons, this process died out. Well, recently my friend Jeff Duntemann decided to revive the process via his self-publishing operation, Copperwood Press. Although they are physically one book (even the Kindle edition has both titles) I’ve decided to review the novels separately. Since I started with Jeff’s book, this review focuses on James Strickland’s novel On Gossamer Wings.

Gossamer Wings is set on the planet Valinor, in the same world as and just before the events of Drumlin Circus. Some 250 years prior, a human spaceship appeared in the system and suffered a massive malfunction. The colonists and crew evacuated to the surface of the Earthlike planet and set up housekeeping. Shortly after arriving, they discovered Thingmakers – alien devices that, when a 256 bit code was tapped or drummed on them, would make something. These tools, called “drumlins,” proved vital to the colonist’s survival.

At any rate, society on Valinor is very similar both technologically and culturally to that of 19th Century America. There are, however, several key differences. Specifically, there is an organization called the Bitspace Institute, which is dedicated to improving the levels of science and technology so that their spaceship can be repaired. The Bitspace Institute spends a lot of its time suppressing and denigrating the use of Thingmakers. Opposing them are groups called the Grangers and The Tears, consisting of people who are perfectly happy to use Thingmakers and stay on Valinor.

Natalie Bishop is an autistic girl, a teenager, who has not learned how to speak. She has, however, learned mathematics and science, and seems to have an innate ability to drum up whatever she wants from a Thingmaker. So, she’s been busy drumming up the parts needed for a flying machine, something that’s not been seen in Valinor’s skies since the last shuttle landed from orbit. The Bitspace Institute really doesn’t want to see Nat’s machine at all.

Further complicating matters, Tommy McQueen, Nat’s neighbor, has a crush on her. This crush is opposed by most of the locals, including Tommy’s bigger brother / bully Billy. Resolving these various conflicts drives On Gossamer Wings.

One of the really nice things about the Drumlin universe is that authors get to play with steampunk technology and 19th Century American society. Nat is unacceptable as Tommy’s wife largely because 19th Century women must cook and clean. She can’t (or won’t – some of the story is from her viewpoint) do that. The fact that she can build a powered aircraft is not only not relevant but is a strike against her.

I greatly enjoyed reading On Gossamer Wings, and I found it a great complement to Jeff’s Drumlin Circus. My request from both writers is “more, please!”

Rating: 10/10

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