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Tangled Up In Blue    by Joan D. Vinge order for
Tangled Up In Blue
by Joan D. Vinge
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

It's always a long, but worthwhile, wait for new novels by Joan Vinge. Though her Cat series are my favorites, it is still a high treat to return to Tiamat and the world of The Snow Queen. Tiamat is a primitive world, hungry for Hegemony technology and accessible only during its Winter cycle. It has one major bargaining chip, since it is the only source of an immortality serum, harvested by butchering the mer in its seas. Its current ruler, the corrupt Snow Queen Arienrhod, harbors the scum of the universe in return for smuggled tech.

The role of the Hegemonic Police, or Blues, in Carbuncle is to protect the natives from these outsiders, but their hands are often tied by the Queen's protection of the criminals. As a result, a group of Newhavenese Blues have formed as vigilantes to destroy contraband that they can not legally touch. During one such action, Nyx LaisTree is the only survivor after the entire group, including his brother, is massacred - and other Blues did the killing. BZ Gundhalinu, a very correct Kharemoughi officer, arrives on the scene in time to notice discrepancies that arouse his interest and concern.

Nyx has amnesia resulting from his injuries, but is obsessed with tracking down his brother's killers. He is also involved with Devony Seaward, a native woman who wears a sensenet, that allows her to shapechange, and earn offworld imports with her body. She has rebelled against her backcountry upbringing and seeks new experiences. Devony falls for Nyx, but still reports to the Snow Queen, whose involvement with offworld Survey groups and a crime lord called The Source is at the heart of the mystery behind the massacre.

Vinge gives her usual formula of fast-moving action and convoluted politics in a brilliantly conceived future world that deserves to be real (though I'm not sure I'd like to visit it). Nyx, BZ and Devony find their way through a maze of pain and violence to avenge the murders, but they don't find all the answers. As one of their adversaries reminds them about Tiamat - 'Every time you peel back the layers of meaning around a word, or think you see what lies behind someone's smile ... you only strip away one mask to find another.'

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