Monday, April 14, 2014

"The Rowan (The Tower and the Hive)" By Anne McCaffrey

This is by far my favorite Anne McCaffrey book I have had the pleasure of reading. I haven't read as many as I like, but when I find them at yard sales and thrift shops, they're an auto-buy.

The Plot:
The Rowan is the main protagonist in this novel, a toddler made orphan by carelessness of the Rowan company, who were mining the planet and decided not to evacuate the camp after ten days of monsoon-like weather, resulting in a mudslide that killed everyone in the area, save the Rowan, who was saved by the ovoid hopper she was ensconced in. The Rowan had telepathic Talent, and began broadcasting her distress to all who could receive it, distracting Primes (who transport many supplies between planets, via telekinesis) from their work. Eventually they locate her, intending to send her to Earth to be raised, however, many high-level Talents (mainly Primes) experience severe distress at being sent away to other planets, and the Rowan refuses to be transported. It is agreed she'll be raised on Altair, her home planet, and she is sent to live with a caretaker until she is "settled". For her adjustment, she is given a pukha, a toy that responds to the emotions of its ward with sensory receptors in its fur, which she christens "Purza".

It takes nine more years before they declare her adjusted enough to begin her training as a Prime. By that time, the Rowan is twelve, and oddly enough, begins to converse with Purza, even though it's just a toy, and they make it into a sort of nanny cam to track her adjustment. Two years later, the Rowan goes on vacation and strikes up a rivalry with her caretaker's niece, culminating in the destruction of Purza, and her childhood. Fortuitously, her father-figure Gerolaman, has acquired a barquecat, a futuristic tamed version of a bobcat, though they are discerning in who they choose as their owner. The barquecat soon accepts the Rowan, and she names him Rascal.

The Rowan begins her training in earnest, and is involved in training classes that will likely determine her "team" if she ever gets a Prime Tower of her own.

The main conflict in this book comes in the last hundred pages, and given that my hardcover copy is only 235 pages, I won't elaborate further on the plot. What I can tell you is this: the Rowan is one of my favorite heroines in sci-fi. She is powerful in her Talent and personality and it comes across through her actions and words, while most heroines are rather flat, and the author has to describe their personalities.

As ever, Anne's world-building is unique and multi-dimensional, though there is some info-dumping in the first chapters of the book. It's very clear she was and is the Queen of Sci-fi and Fantasy, and deservedly so. She tipped the balance so that girls like me could grow up reading about strong women in the genres, instead of their male counterparts (which, I have to point out, still manage to dominate the main publishers). It is worth noting that she passed away three years ago, and she continued to write until she died, an admirable feat.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars for a romantic space opera

Content: Sex, but not explicit; I read this as a teen and came away unscarred.

Page Count: 336 pages

R.I.P. Anne McCaffrey! Your words still resonate today.

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