Review: Once A Hero, by Elizabeth Moon

I do not read the Familias Regnant books for deep discourse but for entertainment so Once A Hero surprised me a bit with being a somewhat darker than the previous three.

The protagonist, Esmay Suiza, has recurring and extremely disturbing nightmares, and her lack of will to confront and treat these symptoms affects her Fleet career negatively.

After having saved the day at the Xavier battle (as told in Winning Colors) she faces a court martial for treachery and mutiny. Exonerated she leaves for home, a place she has no love towards, and learns both why the nightmares and why she have sought a new home, in the Fleet.
Returning to Fleet she is afraid of getting labelled insane, something that can only end with her being sent to the one place she will never go back to – where her family lives.

Her personal struggle and doubt brings depth to a story that else would had been a not only predictable but shallow space opera. That a roomful of male admirals should cede critical command to a young (my guess is 25-ish) female Lieutenant with a doubtful track record is beyond belief – it just doesn’t happen. And that a band of 25 culturally illiterate commandos can take over a major Fleet vessel, staffed with 25.000 people… well, makes all those Bruce Willis saves the world-films like factual truths, eh ;-)

My main objection, though, is people are dying left and right, some of them while being abused, but you never feel affected by it. This book is as clinically clean as a Star Trek Next Generation episode, stuffed with red uniformed nobodies that gets mutilated and what not but without the stench and the terror that should go with it.

I still liked the book. It’s a capturing and fast read, suitable for when the mind can’t take serious thought for long. Like when you’re down with fever and “almost pneumonia” (to cite my doctor), which at the time I was. (Or is – I’m not completely recovered even yet.)


Creative minds

I’m of the firm belief that all human beings are born being creative and innovative. It’s a survival trait, we have to be able to solve hitherto unencountered problems to grow up and we often have to make do without the help of others. As time and socialisation works on us we learn to shed or hide that creativity. We learn to conform, to do as expected. We learn that some solutions are NOT valid in this particular society. IF we are lucky we can see that this is not the case universally but we’re still encouraged to do it the way we do it here. So to speak.
This is of course also a kind of survival trait. It works to unify a certain community, to make that community walk in step. This is what the community needs, and often it benefits the citizens of that community.

Sometimes it gets too strict, though. In our present time we get told that being creative is childish and irresponsible.

I think this is one of the reasons the mainstream despise the science fiction genre. Only the other day I had a conversation were the other part said he had enjoyed SF when he was a kid but then grew out of it, then going on to tell that what had been so great with it was how it showed other perspectives, other ideas, other ways to organise society. And believe it or not but he was talking of Flash Gordon! Science fiction is, at it’s root, creative, and demands a mentality that wants to make that journey, to explore the unknown.

Contrast this with the kind of mainstream books out on the market who works to explore certain relationships or characters (mother-daughter, father-son). Those books work to establish which step to walk in, and to assure the reader that other people have felt that way and it’s only normal.

Society needs balance. Society needs both a solid ground to stand on and creativity. Society needs both kinds of literature/fiction.

But it would be so much easier if those reading confirmation lit could acknowledge that while the explorative stuff is not their cup of tea at least it’s not unworthy of a grown up mind.

Greece – a reflection

So, most of the western world thinks Greece is something amazing. The cradle of democracy and whatnot. And did I mention philosophy? Or the Olympics? Or…

The first time I went to Greece, back in the late 80’s, I had read up on ancient history and was ready to get filled with awe. My most vivid memory is however one of dissapointment. The archeological museum in Athens was a horror. Stacks of pottery chards, old coins and other finds but no story. Just cabinet upon cabinet with historically disjointed finds, organised perhaps to make sense to a scholar but not to me. Then in the markets and shops you could buy cheap imitations of whatever style of Greek pottery you’d like, and miniatures of famous statues or ruins/temples, or cheap touristy stuff.

Somewhere along the road I decided Greece was a country firmly grounded in it’s history, and with as little to do with the now or the future as was conceivably possible.

Repeat visits have only made to confirm this view, with this recent week spent on Crete no exception. If your plot of land looks gorgeous, just look away when you pass your neighbour’s garbage dump and you won’t need see it. Oh, wait, garbage is a natural by-product of civilisation, important for future archeologists, so let’s make their work easier and just leave it out in the open, OK?

On the outskirts of a village I several times passed by a ‘pasture’ for sheep, only the ‘pasture’ mainly consisted of litter, rusty old litter. One part was fenced off and there, on on the worst dump in the whole plot, there lived a dog.

In the beautiful if touristified old harbour of Chania there floated so much garbage I didn’t even want to snap a picture.

The beach west of Platanias, which is west of Chania, was so dirty it wasn’t even a pleasure to walk there, and by the turnabout outside an up-scale beach hotel that we walked past there was so many used condoms and condom wraps it was impossible to ignore them.

And of course the olives or the lemons don’t get toxic by the rusty old cars leaking oil into the soil, or the rusty paint tins, and perhaps the small animals dying in the discarded bottles was vermin anyway. But in my view a civilised country can afford efficient handling of it’s waste.

The tourist industry is a huge source of income in Greece. And perhaps this is the market talking – it simply doesn’t matter if the place is clean – people go there either to see the ruins or to relax completely and the ruin people are so awed with the ruins they don’t care for the rest while the relaxation people only care for cheap food and booze and a decent amount of sun. Don’t make for a high demand on general development.

It’s a sad situation.