Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Interesting Words: Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder

View this book on Amazon.com One of the things I often do as I'm reading a novel or short story is keep track of words whose definitions I do not know or that I find interesting. Either way, these interesting words are ones I feel might be of use in my own writing. That, and it's good to expand one's vocabulary every once in a while.

This latest round of interesting words comes from Karl Schroeder's Sun of Suns.

armature: The rotating part of a dynamo, consisting essentially of copper wire wound around an iron core.

boatswain: A warrant officer or petty officer in charge of a ship's rigging, anchors, cables, and deck crew.

contrail: A visible trail of streaks of condensed water vapor or ice crystals sometimes forming in the wake of an aircraft. Also called vapor trail.

diatom: Any of various microscopic one-celled or colonial algae of the class Bacillariophyceae, having cell walls of silica consisting of two interlocking symmetrical valves.

gelid: Cold; very cold; icy.

ingenue: An innocent, unsophisticated, naïve, wholesome girl or young woman.

insouciant: Marked by blithe unconcern; nonchalant.

mendicant: Depending on alms for a living; practicing begging.

minaret: A tall slender tower attached to a mosque, having one or more projecting balconies from which a muezzin summons the people to prayer.

pearlescent: Having a pearly luster or gloss.

peridot: A yellowish-green variety of olivine used as a gem.

pipette: A narrow, usually calibrated glass tube into which small amounts of liquid are suctioned for transfer or measurement.

prodigious: Impressively great in size, force, or extent; enormous.

prosaic: Consisting or characteristic of prose.

quiescent: Being quiet, still, or at rest; inactive.

sargasso: (gulfweed) Any of several brownish seaweeds of the genus Sargassum of tropical Atlantic waters, having rounded air bladders and often forming dense, floating masses.

Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder

Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder starts out flat out hard to understand. Not the writing, or the language, or even the plot (though it does take a while to fully unfold). It's the world itself that took me way too long to comprehend. The setting is a sort of blend of science fiction and steampunk and takes place on a planet called Virga. Maybe 'planet' is the wrong word. The description on Amazon defines Virga as a "planet-sized balloon", which is about right now that I think about it. But that fact was never understood, at least not by me. I figured Virga for a gas planet because there is no surface, but, to confuse things a bit more, there are artificial suns within the 'balloon'. People travel about inside this balloon using ships armed with rockets and protected by hosts of flying motorbikes. At one point, they travel to the outer (inside) edge, but can go no further. There is a sentient, all-powerful race outside the balloon, and presumably they're the ones who keep the people inside (?). Again, confusing.

All that strangeness aside, Sun of Suns is a surprisingly entertaining novel: Hayden Griffin wants revenge on the man responsible for killing his parents and forcing the subjugation of his nation. Admiral Chaison Fanning of Slipstream is that man. But as Hayden gets close to the admiral, intent on killing him and selling his own life in the process if necessary, he comes to learn of a threat more dangerous than Slipstream that the admiral intends to meet head on. Forced to join Fanning's crew from circumstance if nothing else, Hayden finds himself growing attached to certain Slipstream crewmembers and unwilling to carry out his original mission.

Schroeder has quite the imagination when it comes to world-building. I only wish he'd stopped for a moment to explain it a little better. While the novel does meander a bit—the main plot points are not revealed until the reader is well into it—a riotous, action-packed ship battle at the end almost makes the whole experience worth it. Add Sun of Suns to your reading list. It’s a five book series, so plenty of time for explanations of how things work later on.