When I started getting into Podiobooks in a big way, I downloaded Homesick by Paul J. Joseph. This turned out to be the second book in his Through The Fold series. I went back and listened to Marker Stone (book 1), and now I’ve listened all the way through and finished book 6: Window In The Sky.
Through The Fold has been an interesting series. As a series primarily set in space, whether on ships or stations or alien worlds, we often see well-thought-out situations and technologies: muscle wastage in low-grav environments in those who don’t exercise, and people trying to find a way around the exercising. Stations as waypoints on longer journeys. Space travel taking a Long Time (which it ought to).
These things help ground the series when it ventures into the alien-ness of the Masters, then the even-more-alien-ness of the Szzzyyyxx (pronounced “See-ikes”), the weird weapon that so negatively affects Baltan City, and then the time travel and parallel universe stories.
I’ve read and watched a lot of science fiction, and know how badly the Big Shiny Reset Button can suck. Mr Joseph has impressed me by using reset buttons in two books, and have it be satisfying.
One thing I find interesting about the series, is the steps between each story are pretty big. The discovery of the Fold in Marker Stone does make a logical step to exploration of the other side in Homesick, but after that, the stories aren’t really what you expect from a logical, measured building-upon the foundations carefully laid by the book before. The pattern’s a bit more complicated than that, so while the steps seem like left turns, they do build upon each other and add up pretty well.
Layers of complexity are added as the series goes on, and Window In The Sky is the most complicated of all. Splashdown introduced time travel to the series, Window really explores the effects of history being rewritten multiple times. From the perspective of a few different points in the timelines.
There really is quite a tangled web, which Mr Joseph manages to untangle without leaving any threads hanging, which seems like rather a feat.
Initially in the series, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with a same-sex relationship portrayed in the story. I soon overcame this, though. Mr Joseph avoided two pitfalls that lie lurking, waiting to ensnare works like this. One, there can be a temptation to describe one type of relationship more than another. The other, to go into a lot of description about physical acts.
Mr Joseph balances the main romantic partnerships (Sally and Jackie, and Ian and Angela) about the same. The dynamics are different of course: Jackie is more supporting of Sally than Angela is of Ian, but neither relationship is turned into porn for the ears, as some other writers do. I appreciated that.
There’s a twist at the very end of Window that has the comments section at Podiobooks, very divided. To some extent, I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, at the same time, it’s one of those things that seems worth discussing. So what I’ll do, I’ll give my wrap-up now, leave a few lines blank, then talk about the ending a bit. If you don’t want to be spoiled, well, you’re a grown-up, you can skip that part.
Someone (and I’m too lazy right now to look up who) once said: If a book isn’t worth reading twice, it’s not worth reading once. I enjoyed the Through The Fold series, and while sometimes it was a bit tricky to follow, when one character stopped talking and another started, and there wasn’t a lot of change in the vocal style, any potential confusion always got swiftly cleared up. The stories got complicated, yes, but I still managed to follow them. I think I will listen to the whole series again. They’re pretty long books, so I’m not quite ready for such a massive undertaking at this point, but having finished the series now, I’m kinda looking forward to it.
All six books of the Through The Fold series can be found at Podiobooks.
MAJOR SPOILERS AFTER THE BREAK
Are they gone? Good. Reminder: MAJOR SPOILERS (in case you forgot)
After the entire timeline is reset, and a new universe emerges, Ian and Sally are, for different reasons, left partnerless. They also both remember the previous timelines, which nobody else does.
As the only people alive who share that now-vanished history, it’s not surprising that they would find it easier to connect with each other, than to anyone in the rest of the populace who wasn’t there so couldn’t remember. I’ve heard stranger real-life stories of gay people surprised to find themselves choosing to be in a straight marriage.
Ian’s broaching of the subject does seem a bit awkward, but any such conversation would be. The question “Are you still…?” then jarred a little, but seemed mitigated by his bringing up that she’d mentioned she had had a crush on a guy, once. Sally’s reaction to what would obviously seem like a major change, seemed reasonable as well.
Thus to me, that development in the closing moments of the book, didn’t really come across as contrived, to me.
I can see how it would piss a lot of people off, who have different viewpoints on the subject to myself. Seems Mr Joseph is on track to piss everyone off: for one group, by having a gay relationship prominent throughout the series, and to another, by having a gay character turn straight at the end.
I’m an asshole, and am also not entirely in either group, so I just find that observation amusing.
Anyway, the scenario made sense to me even without that change, so.