Singing the Dogstar Blues, by Alison Goodman, for Timeslip Tuesday

Singing the Dogstar Blues, by Alison Goodman (1998) is a YA sci-fi book that won Australia's Aurealis Award in 1998, and it is easy to see why it did.

Some time in the future, a smart-aleck seventeen-year old girl, Joss, is in danger of being kicked out of the prestigious Centre for Neo-Historical Studies, the one place on Earth where time travel is possible.   The director of the program seems to hate her guts, and no-one could accuse Joss of trying to curry favor--she is a girl with attitude.  But then a new student joins her coterie of first year would-be time travelers--an alien from a species that's only recently made contact with Earth.   Mavkel's people are born in telepathically-linked pairs, but Mavkel's twin has died, leaving him in need of a partner with a sympathetic mind.  And it turns out that Joss is a perfect match...

Except that Joss, though she grows fond of her rather endearing alien partner, can't mind-meld with him enough to keeping him from sinking deeper toward fatal depression.  The only hope they have is finding a possible catalyst (this is me being intentionally vague)  that was destroyed a generation ago.   But when you are students of time travel, that is not an insoluble problem...

And in the meantime, there's an assassin on the loose at the Centre...

So I was doubtful at first, because Joss felt a tad gritty--kind of tough and obnoxious, and with more street-smarts than I will ever have.   But as I read, I realized that instead of the urban noir I was afraid I was going to get,  I was actually  reading a sci-fi character study involving both Joss as an individual (who plays blues harmonica) as well as human-alien interspecies communication, set within an interesting mystery, and at turns piquant and amusing.   So I was happy.

There isn't actually much in the way of time travel--as first year students, Joss and Mevkel aren't spending their days zipping back to the past (now that I think about it, I am having trouble remembering them actually attending any classes...).   So the time travel was a sneaky operation, just going back thirty or so years to get the answer to a particular question, and coming fairly late in the book.  The encounters that Joss has back in the past, though, add nuance to the situation in her present, which I appreciated.

In any event, if you are in the mood for entertaining YA sci fi starring a tough girl heroine who's kind of sad inside, whose best friend is an appealing alien, do give this a try!  Though it is now 16 years old, the only thing that felt a tad dated was the lack of instantaneous search-engine gratification...In any event, a new paperback edition was published in 2012 with a bonus Joss and Mav story (originally published in Firebirds Rising), and so you should get that edition (which is the one I linked to above) because you will almost certainly want more after you finish the original! 

1 comment:

  1. Cool! The premise sounds really good, and of course I love time travel. Can't wait to give this a try!


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