Book Review: Sharon Lynn Fisher’s Ghost Planet

With Ghost Planet, Sharon Lynn Fisher has come up with a truly unique premise.  I’m not giving anything away when I say that the protagonist, Elizabeth Cole, dies before the book opens.  It takes her a while to figure this out, though.  In fact neither she nor Murphy, her prospective supervisor at the New Seattle Counseling Center on the planet Ardagh 1, realizes that Elizabeth is a ghost until an alarm goes off when she passes through a sensor.

Ghost PlanetThe two had met only once, casually, years earlier on Earth, but that tenuous connection has turned Elizabeth into Murphy’s personal ghost (supplanting his rather mousy Aunt Maeve).  This strange relationship traps the two together, bound by a force that requires Elizabeth to stay near Murphy but separated by the Ghost Protocol, a measure devised by Murphy to protect the colonists from the emotional damage done by the ghosts, aliens who replicate, and believe themselves to be, the settlers’ lost friends and loved ones.

Elizabeth is not your average ghost.  With her academic background and research skills, she sets out to discover the secrets of the planet, upsetting the established order and drawing Murphy with her into a roller coaster adventure.  Can they save themselves?  The ghosts?  The colonists?  The planet?

This well-done science fiction romance will satisfy lovers of both genres, weaving the love story through a tale grounded in scientific theory and superb world building.  Fisher leaves enough planetary secrets hidden to warrant a sequel, and I hope there will be another visit to Ardagh 1 in store.  Highly recommended!





The Influence of Books, Part 5

That little piece of notepad paper is still on my desk, and I’ve arrived at the line for science fiction.  There are three names there, plucked out of my head the night I made the list, but that’s not enough.  Not for science fiction.  I’m doubling up on this one.

I don’t read as much science fiction these days as I once did–I don’t have the leisure to read as much of anything as I used to–but I have belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club for decades, and my bookshelves are full of SFBC editions.  As I write this I am reading Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher, a Golden Heart finalist in paranormal romance published as science fiction by TOR Books.

If I go back to my school days, I remember reading L. Sprague De Camps and Fletcher Pratt’s Enchanter books, James Blish’s Cities in Flight tetralogy, books by Hal Clement and many others, but the big three were Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Poul Anderson.

Asimov wrote (amongst his truly vast output) juveniles under the pseudonym Lucky French, and I’m sure I read some of those, but the books that I remember, and that I read over and over, were the Foundation trilogy.   Looking at Amazon, I am reminded that Asimov continued to write in the Foundation universe, and that younger authors carried on later, but the original trilogy consisted of Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation.  Like nearly all of Asmiov’s work, these were stories of humans.  They might colonize the Galaxy, but the only aliens they met were themselves.

Heinlein also wrote a stack of juveniles–no one called them Young Adult novels back then–and I read those along with his adult novels, works like Stranger in a Strange Land, which seemed very daring in their day.  A handful of his many stories stick in my mind:  “The Roads Must Roll,” from his pulp fiction days, The Door Into Summer, Revolt in 2100.  I’m sure I read most, if not all, of his Future History series.  The only Heinlein book on my shelf today is a totally independent novel called Glory Road.  I’m not really sure why–on rereading, it didn’t quite live up to memory.  An omnibus edition of some of the juveniles is no longer on my shelf; I don’t think I even read all three of the novels in it.  But when I first read them, they fed my thirst for books and my dreams of the future.

I still have a whole row of Poul Anderson’s books on my shelf, old favorites including Three Hearts and Three Lions, The High Crusade, and several of his Time Patrol stories, as well as three anthologies of the stories and short novels that made up Anderson’s future history, the Technic Civilization Saga.  Like Asimov and Heinlein, Anderson produced an enormous body of work; his universe was populated with exotic aliens, merchant traders, and galactic empires.  Some of them read a bit too much like pulp fiction today–one of the anthologies has a bookmark in it where I apparently stopped reading and put it back on the shelf–but I devoured them all back in the day.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that these authors from my science fiction past are all men.  The three names on my notepad, like my friend Sharon Fisher, are women, and they all have a prominent place on my keeper shelf (the picture at the top of these pages includes some of my science fiction keepers).  I’ll be back with those three names, but right now I’m going to fix dinner and turn on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.


Buying Books Again

Well, that’s hardly news.  How about this:  I went into the local Barnes & Noble yesterday and didn’t buy any books at all.  I was there to pick up some gift cards, but I did wander through the store, looking.  I’m afraid, though, that I’ve reached the point of feeling a bit overwhelmed in a giant bookstore, and find myself wishing, not for the first time, that there were more small ones left in the world.  There’s just too much clamoring for my attention in the big ones.

Not that I wasn’t tempted.  But I have two book orders outstanding, not to mention a couple of recent instant gratification episodes involving my Kindle.  And no more time to read than usual.

Last weekend I ordered a stack of paperbacks from Amazon.  Three of my Starcatcher sisters have books just out, their Golden Heart finalist manuscripts now in print, and I wanted paper copies of those:  Valerie Bowman’s Secrets of a Wedding Night, Tracy Brogan’s Crazy Little Thing, and Sharon Lynn Fisher’s Ghost Planet.

As long as I was there, I ordered Elaine Viets’ latest Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper mystery, Murder Is a Piece of Cake.  Josie Marcus and Helen Hawthorne, Viets’ other series character, are two of my favorites, and I’ve read them all.  Amazon was running a buy three, get one free sale that day, and three of my four books qualified, so I ordered one more, Dipped, Stripped and Dead, by Elise Hyatt, the first in a series recommended by my friend Jane Perrine.

Then I wandered over to the Mystery Guild and preordered another stack by favorite mystery authors:  Janet Evanovich’s Notorious Nineteen, Margaret Maron’s The Buzzard Table, and Marcia Muller’s Looking for Yesterday.  These are all the latest installments in series I’ve been reading since their first cases, featuring Stephanie Plum (Evanovich), Deborah Knott (Maron), and Sharon McCone (Muller).   And, from one of my favorite SF series, I ordered Lois McMaster Bujold’s new Vorkosigan novel, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance.

While I’m waiting for all those paper books to arrive, I downloaded Heather MacAllister’s Haunted Spouse, a Halloween romance about an architect who specializes in designing Haunted Houses.  Who knew?  I started reading this one at lunch yesterday, and it’s charming and fun.

I know I’ll never catch up.  I don’t care.  There are so many worse vices and more dangerous addictions.  Binge book buying seems pretty tame in comparison.

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