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Wednesday, May 14, 2008


**** Stardance by Spider and Jeanne Robinson. Science fiction.

Charlie Armstead is the best video man in the world of dance. A former dancer, sidelined by injury, he's turned his talent, creativity, and understanding of dance to filming it to share with the rest of the world.

Shara Drummond is an incredible dancer, possibly the best Charlie's ever seen. It's heartbreaking, though, because she's simply physically too big to dance professionally with a troupe. Solo performances won't work either because nobody will take a chance on such an unknown.

Then a new space station gives Shara her break: dancing in free-fall.

Then aliens show up, and it turns out dance is their means of communication, and Shara's not just an artist but an ambassador of sorts.

There are four parts two this book: "Stardance," "The Stardancers," "Starseed," and "Syngamy." It's hard to describe the latter three parts without spoiling the ending of the preceding parts. I'll just say that the aliens turn out to be more than expected.

The first part of the story appeared in 1977, and the entire book first came out in 1979. I wish I'd read it then--I'd have absolutely loved it: the misfit who finds her place and triumphs; the aliens that only she can understand; and then the evolution of man. Now, however, I find it charming but naive.

A lot of that is that I am absolutely not an artsy person. I admire dancers--as people with particular skills and talents. The notion that dance (or any art form) is life, or that dancers (or other artists) have some sort of mystical insight that the rest of us lack--that just makes me roll my eyes.

Then, too, there's the notion, very prevalent in older science fiction at least (I haven't read a lot of recent sf, so I don't know if it's still so common), that the ultimate (and, it's implied, preferred) evolution of man is the surrender of self to become one with the universe. I'm too much of an individualist to find that at all appealing.

Still, it's a good story, a classic, and well worth reading.

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