The Kindly Ones
"The Kindly Ones" has its good points, but in general I found it disappointing. The author creates a world ruled by a strict moral code which is for the most part difficult for us to discern the sense of, but which has been deemed vital to survival by the world upon which it is practiced. All relations are through a system that resembles clans. Any significant violation of the code results in total ostracism, to the point the individual is considered dead and any normal communication or even recognition of existence results in the person acknowledging the "ghost" being considered dead as well. There are many such ghosts. They live amongst themselves, but their earlier life is gone. If someone is unwilling to abide by the code due to its restrictions, they can voluntarily sever their links with the clan and become para'an, which is freeing and still allows communication with all, but privileges of clan membership are terminated and one assumes a second-class status.The establishment of this sort of system doesn't seem to make sense to me, and its continuance in the context of the world described in the story doesn't make sense. In practice it would bear a heavy cost to society. Violation of the code in certain ways is the basis of the plot, but the rules that are violated seem ridiculous, especially as something to make a big deal about. The author apparently wanted to create this scenario for the plot, but didn't do a very good job of making it believable.There are three main characters in the story: a medium who is able to talk to both the ghosts and normal citizens, a space pilot from outside the system, and another pilot who is para'an. Chapters told from the viewpoint of the medium are written in the first person, and chapters from the viewpoints of either of the other two are in third person. However, I felt the characters are not sufficiently differentiated from each other for it to be easy to be clear about from whose viewpoint the story was being told, and I kept having to remind myself. The medium and the off-world space pilot were the two most important characters, and they seemed to think very much alike.The characters are shallow; one knows almost nothing of their past. They are also uniformly unemotional. They will take actions one would attribute to emotions, but the writing is so plain that one rarely feels anything in sympathy.The prose is very detailed, of the sort which describes every action the characters take in detail in an effort to place the characters in a real place. The detail is overdone, however, and I finally needed to skip paragraphs for pages at a time to find the next place the plot moves forward in order not to become too bored with the book to finish it. As one example of many, a space trip requires three pages preparing for the launch with nothing in particular happening, and then spends several more pages in the journey from planet to moon with nothing much going on. There is a little supposed suspense there avoiding space rocks, but there was obviously nothing going to happen to all the main characters so there was no real suspense.For me, the book picks up about two-thirds through in a meeting of the heads of the clans. The meeting goes poorly, and the main characters hatch a plot and put it in motion. This part is suspenseful. Then the interest drops off again. There is simply too little tension in the plot, and too much feels contrived. I don't recommend this book - spend your time elsewhere.