The Snow Queen

by Joan D. Vinge
Reviewed date: 2005 Feb 21
Rating: 3
536 pages
cover art

Moon Dawntreader Summer lives on Tiamat, an underdeveloped planet embargoed by the technologically advanced Hegemony. Tiamat is ruled by a queen, chosen from the Winter folk and Summer folk, alternately. The Winter period--the reign of the Snow Queen--is marked by the presence of off-world technology and a Hegemony occupying presence; the Summer period--the reign of the Summer Queen--is marked by the leaving of the Hegemony and all their technology. This cycle of Winter and Summer is the way of Tiamat.

But the Snow Queen might not want to relinquish power to the Summers....

Joan D. Vinge's The Snow Queen parallels closely the plot of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale of the same name. This is unfortunate: the plot is the weakest part of Vinge's novel. The hokey mish-mash of coincidences stretched my belief to the limit and beyond. Willing suspension of disbelief only goes so far. I had not read the fairy tale until after finishing Vinge's Snow Queen, but after having read it, some of the more puzzling episodes in the novel make sense: Vinge was compelled to write them to mirror the events in the fairy tale.

The Snow Queen would have been better as a fantasy novel. The threshhold of believability is less for fantasy novels than for science fiction. Many of the contrived plot devices could be explained through magic, but were never explained adequately through the science fiction of the story.

Vinge won a Hugo for her novel, but I believe this was more on the strength of the ideas in The Snow Queen than on her storytelling or character-building. The Snow Queen is packed with interesting ideas, if you can get past the dreadful story. I rate the novel a three out of five.

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