Bitter Angels

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 2, 2010

Bitter Angels by C. L. Anderson

On August 2nd, the North Reading Group met at the North Village Branch of the Austin Public Library, located at 2505 Steck Ave, to discuss Bitter Angels.   The author is Sarah Zettel, writing under the name C. L. Anderson.  It won the 2010 Phillip K. Dick award, given for a distinguished SF work issued originally in paperback form in the U.S.  Twelve members attended.  Nine had read Zettel before (this is her first book written as C. L. Anderson).  Eight started the book and six finished it.  Apparently the nom-de-plume was selected because the story was a departure from Zettel’s themes over the past several years and her recent books hadn’t sold well enough.

The central theme is how in a multi-planet colonial empire peace might be maintained by a dedicated central force (the Guardians) whose members are not permitted to kill, even in self defense.  The protagonist is a long-retired Field Commander of the Guardians, Terese Drajeske, who reluctantly accepts a return to duty to investigate the disappearance of a former close associate.  The book is a hybrid military SF-space opera-detective-spy story with a strong female protagonist, set in a planet best described as a “hell hole,” controlled by a despotic central government located nearby whose power is maintained by rationing water.

Several members like the book, for a variety of reasons.  One commented on the detailed world-building.  Another liked the pacing and the fact that all of the characters had detailed backgrounds.  Two commented that “the book wrapped up well.”  Others simply liked the story and said that it maintained their interest throughout.

A couple of readers found the pacing to be too slow early on; one dropped out after 60 pages.  One commented that the book had “too many viewpoint characters.”  Another complained that there was “too much motion,” creating confusion, although adding that the characterization was good and most of the action scenes were well done.

The consensus was that this is a good summer read.

After the meeting the group enjoyed dinner at The Black-Eyed Pea.

—Tom Sciance