Tourist Trap is a science fiction adventure by Sue Ann Bowling, who was one of my blogging friends in Alaska. I’ve been meaning to read it for a few years now, after reading Homecoming just after Sue Ann died, and earlier, her novella, Horse Power. I hope that some day Sue’s family will manage to edit the rest of the work she left behind, and publish it.
by Sue Ann Bowling
Roi and his best friends from slavery are taking a challenge journey on Falaron, a planet terraformed from Earth during the Ice Age. They look forward to a vacation of dog sledding, hang gliding, horseback trekking, sailing, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing-but the friction developing within the group is adding its own level of challenge to the trip.
Their guide, Penny, finds the four a refreshing change from her usual spoiled clients. She is worried, however, by the unusual number of accidents the group is experiencing. Even though they are vacationing on a wilderness planet, this foursome seems particularly accident prone. But they aren’t all accidents.
Roi’s half-brother Zhaim, a brilliant and malicious sociopath, has decided that the journey is an ideal opportunity to rid himself of his rival. He is capable of manipulating not only the weather but affairs on distant planets. His schemes distract the only two adults who would be able to protect the young people and draw them far enough away that they can be of no help. He has even managed to plant an unsuspecting agent in the party.
As the group travels, their journey becomes a far more serious challenge than any of them could have imagined. [goodreads]
There are times when you should read books fairly soon after each other, especially when they are set in large, complex civilisations with many characters sharing their lives over the books. Fortunately, Sue Ann Bowling gives just enough update for each of the various factions for me to remember the who, what and when of Homecoming. But I would have got into Tourist Trap faster if I’d read it sooner.
While Homecoming is vast in its treatment of the galaxy, most of Tourist Trap takes place on the planet Falaron. A few excursions go to other worlds where the other characters, Roi’s parents and advisers, are based or working. I was wrong-footed for a while, thinking that the detail of Roi’s wilderness hiking, climbing, trekking, rafting adventure was unnecessary, or even indulgent. It turned out it was essential.
The depth of expertise in this book is terrific. Not only does the author treat you to an expert tour of a complex wilderness, guided by both a trained guide and Roi’s own expertise and mental abilities, she also takes time over how to do each of the activities to a level that makes you feel you really could them yourself. Anyone for hang-gliding? This is how to set up your wing and check it over to make sure it’s safe. And your parachute, for emergencies. There are episodes with real, imaginary, and fierce creatures. Manipulated weather makes it look like a natural climate crisis. There is safety in numbers and in solo excursions. There are mosquitoes and miniature horses – and I’m not talking Falabellas.
Even if this was just a wilderness adventure, it would be exciting, thrilling and motivational.
Add in Roi’s arch-enemy, Zhaim, who is a sadistic, power-crazy megalomaniac… and he’s also jealous of Roi. Our first meeting with him turned my stomach. Our later ones turn our hero’s stomach. Fortunately this is not as graphic for the reader, but we can guess… oh yes, we can guess well.
Other characters get their turn to display the novel and solidly developed science of Ms Bowling’s galaxy. Galactic is the right word, because the R’iil’nians were galactic citizens long before we mere humans got on the map, as the retrospective she was working on, and serialised on her free blog showed. Jarn’s Journal mystified me when I first started reading it, but I later downloaded the whole lot in case the website disappeared. The rest of Ms Bowling’s links have, but that free wordpress site endures still.[checked 26/12/18]
I still hold on to the hope that her family will publish her unfinished or uncompleted works. If not, I would like to produce Jarn’s Journal in her memory.
This was an epic science fiction/space opera work by a superb author. Those who found her, delight in her wonderful writing. Those who didn’t still have a chance to experience it. Tourist Trap is an excellent work, but maybe start with Homecoming.