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Monday, October 15, 2012

A Cartographic Analysis of the Dream State by Pat Murphy

A Cartographic Analysis of the Dream State by Pat Murphy
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (17 pages)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Astilbe

Traveling across the Martian polar cap, the second TransPolar Expedition is tracing the shape of the hidden lands beneath the ice and snow. Sita, the expedition’s cartographer, has a talent for interpreting the shades and squiggles that the computer produces from satellite photos and sonic recordings. She takes ambiguous data and makes a clear and precise map of lands no one has ever seen.

But Sita knows that maps are black-and-white portraits of a world that exists in shades of gray and, like cartographers before her, she knows that dragons lurk beyond the edges of every map. At night, in the darkness of her dreams, she believes in the yeti, the messengers from the secret lands, the dark-eyed dream beasts that haunt the crevasses and move as softly as the blowing snow.

The world is not all that it seems on the surface. Beneath the polar ice lies danger and discovery.

Sita knew the Martian TransPolar Expedition would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It isn’t every day one has the opportunity to explore places that no human being has ever visited before. What she couldn’t predict, though, was how dangerous it would become or how quickly she’d be pushed to her limits.

This is science fiction at its best. Peel away the technology, otherworldly setting and burgeoning mystery and the reader is left with a close-knit band of resourceful humans charting an unforgiving land. In order to achieve their goals and keep the group safe they’ll muster strength they never knew dwelt within them.

I was pleasantly surprised to see an all-female crew on this expedition. Hard science fiction in particular tends to be dominated by men. It was even nicer to quickly realize that the gender identities of these characters have nothing to do with their story arcs. Sita, Nan, Yukiko and Maria were simply the finest professionals in their respective fields available at the time.

One subplots wasn’t resolved in the manner I had assumed it would be when I first started reading. Ultimately it didn’t detract from the ending but if the author ever revisits these characters I would be interested in a sequel that revisits the difference between how the protagonist experiences these events and what actually took place.

A Cartographic Analysis of the Dream State kept me guessing until the final sentence. This is the perfect book for anyone who has ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what adventures await the next person to fly up there.

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