The Snow Queen - Joan D. Vinge
Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father. As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life (so far).


Reading The Snow Queen felt like watching snooker on the telly at three in the morning. It’s inoffensive, doesn’t take much effort and it keeps your eyes busy.

Stretching metaphors (and similes) is a hobby of mine, so let’s have a go at this one; imagine this hypothetical game of billiards being played on a golden mountain-top, beneath a green and purple storm-whipped sky – and the two competitors are a jewel encrusted cyborg and a naked, tattooed nympho-fairy with fluttering wings.

My point? You can dress it up pretty, but the game remains the same.

I read it during the build-up to my wedding, amid a run of early/mid 80s Locus Sci-Fi winners – Integral Trees, Titan, The Snow Queen and The Postman. Vinge’s tale came 4th in that little mini-league. I’m normally a big fan of clone stories, but even that didn’t help push my buttons here.

I was equally unimpressed by her ex-husband Vernor’s 2007 winner, Rainbows End, so perhaps I’m just not operating on any Vinge-receptive wavelength.

I know there’s a lot of love for TSQ out there but it reminded me a lot of McCaffrey’s Restoree; my wife got me to read that, insisting it was worthwhile and every other chapter I was rolling my eyes and glaring at her sceptically. Really? Really? You think this is good?

Some specific complaints:
The planetary backstory is reminiscent of Dune, but not as good.
The whole sci-fi / fey merger just jarred in an overly melodramatic manner for me.
The villain of the piece, Arienhod, is like a cartoon bad fairy.
The lovers are called Moon and Sparks for frack’s sake!
Moon, the hero, was like banal nails on a chalk-board.
I thought Spark deserved a long walk off a short pier.
The chamber of wind (or whatever it was called) seemed pretty damn arbitrary.

It’s not terrible, but I found it insipid.

Best bit?
Without a doubt the flute-duel!
Wind instruments have always seemed mortally dangerous to me…

There were spaceships, aliens, love, murder and mayhem – it's in my genre and it gets two stars without complaint.

I’m glad I’ve read The Snow Queen, but I won’t be reading the rest of the series unless someone pays me too.