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Book Review: “Dance for the Ivory Madonna” by Don Sakers

I must start off by saying speculative science fiction isn’t exactly my most beloved genre.  I have read many Hugo winners (I actually try to read and vote every year.  I also try to read one or two winners a year), and they are well written and have a high degree of interest for me, but good science isn’t enough to hold my attention.

Lucky for me, Dance had a pleasant cast of characters and a few well-woven subplots to keep my reading while throwing hard science or deep backstories at me.  To me, Damien and Penylle make the story what it is, particularly Damien.    I wish I had seen more of Penylle’s plot-line.  I think she has a strength that was hidden a bit by omitting how she got to her position in the story.

For those speculative sci-fi fans foaming at the mouth, Sakers addressed a supernatural element in his story.  He addresses this in his acknowledgements, but what supernatural aspects are in this book are small, and I wouldn’t let it keep you from reading a book that extrapolates so well on a few very prominent world news events (thought this book was released some 10-plus years ago).

Another reason speculative sci-fi and I don’t get along is the occasional direct messaging the reader gets.  I can’t say Sakers didn’t do this, but I can certainly thank him for not going to the lengths that some writers go to.

I just felt it important to mention a few tropes this genre uses that bug this particular reader.  All that said, I found this book very interesting.

Sakers gives readers a solid cast.  The Ivory Madonna gets a lot of face-time, but Damien still carries the book as far as I’m concerned.  The flashback chapters served to give depth to some of the more prominent characters.

As with most books that remind me of Hugo winners, this poses a few fascinating questions, the one that stuck with me (I tend to wait a few days before posting reviews) was societies reliance on technology, particularly the internet.  I’m fond of the internet as it allows me a way to get my opinion out there for you all to see, but it’s fair to wonder what possibilities exist as we drive ourself deeper into the digital age.

Dance is a good story that fans of deep, speculative science fiction should enjoy.

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