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House of reeds

by Thomas Harlan

  Print book : Fiction  |  1st ed

The Sixth Sun series continues   (2009-08-07)


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by wrobins1

Harlan, Thomas.  ~ House of Reeds ~ TOR, 2004 ~ 411 pages ~ adults, teens.

"Chu-sa Mitsuharu Hadeishi, captain of the Henry R. Cornuelle, was sitting in the ruins of the senior officers’ wardroom when his personal comm chimed. The thin little Nisei gentleman set down his cup of tea on a utility table covered with departmental readiness reports and tapped his comm-ban live.."

This is the second of the Sixth Sun series with the first one being Wasteland of Flint and the third one Land of the Dead. There may be following volumes.

After archeological work elsewhere, Xenoarcheologist Gretchen Anderssen, her alien Hesht IT specialist Magdalena, and the human pilot David Parker are ready for a vacation when they are unexpectedly sent to Jagan to look for what might be a first sun artifact.

Unknown to them, the Imperial Mexican Priesthood has planned an insurrection on Jagan so that one of the sons of the Emperor might look good in bringing order to the planet after defeating the large lizard-like natives. This is called a “flowery” war planned by the Flower priesthood as well as by manipulative Imperial secret agents. To complicate matters, an unknown force may also be involved in providing the natives with unexpected higher technology weaponry.

The plot has four major threads. One deals with the Cornuelle which is worn and torn from a variety of dangerous missions and desperately needs refitting and resupply. It finds itself the only ship in space when the insurrection begins. The second focuses on the old, but very talented Mexican intelligence operative who is planning the insurrection beyond what the flower priests are doing. The third deals with the task of keeping the royal son, a weak and failing person, alive. Finally, Gretchen and her colleagues must find where the artifact may be, secure permission to visit that location, and stay alive when the warfare begins.

The setting is notably different from the bleak and lonely planet in the Wasteland since the cast is much larger with many urban interactions as well as a notably different alien population. Harlan writes well so that descriptions are clear, interesting, and appropriate. The main characters are nicely drawn and seem quite realistic. The plot is somewhat complex, but the various parts come together at the end while leaving considerable room for further adventures. Green Hummingbird does not appear in this story so Gretchen is on her own to come to grips with her unusual insights and recollections of events that happened centuries earlier.

There is a reasonable amount of ground military action in the latter pages and action that could destroy all of the main characters, especially those aboard the Cornuelle.

Jacket art by Chris Moore shows Gretchen and Magdalena in a Mexican/Aztec setting with space ships in the background. It is both different from and similar to the cover art for the Wasteland showing both the genre and continuity between the first two volumes. Print is reasonably dark and not too small. See-through is average.


While I did not enjoy House of Reeds quite as much as Wasteland of Flint, it is still an excellent story. Again, the social/cultural/political interactions were especially well-done. I missed Green Humming bird, but continue to appreciate how well the crew and officers of the Cornuelle are portrayed. Gretchen continues to be a deep and thoughtful character well worth our time and thought. The series is an excellent choice for all but the smallest SF collection.

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