Burning Bright by Melissa Scott. ★★★1/2
Burning Bright was fun and a good enough way to pass the time.
When Lioe arrives on the world of Burning Bright, she’s not thinking about anything other than the Game: the continous video game RPG which is popular with humans across the known universe. However, when Lioe uses character templates of a Burning Bright native, she becomes inadvertently drawn into complex local politics.
As far as I know, everyone in Burning Bright was bisexual, which was fantastic. I also liked that this future world didn’t seem to have any problems with homophobia and sexism.
Lioe is involved with a woman, Rosche, for most of the book, but I’m not sure if it was really a romance. Lioe and Rosche don’t seem to feel much for each other, but that could just be a general flaw of the novel. Besides, Rosche is a pretty flat character. I still don’t know much about her besides that she’s presented as a sexy, fiery dockworker.
I think the most emotional relationship was probably between Ransome and Chauvelin, but again there’s issues with the characters appearing emotionally dampened, particularly at the end. I would venture to guess that none of these characters really feeling anything is why I never became attached to them.
Besides that, my other quibble is the three sections that took place inside the RPG game. I just didn’t get the point of them and felt that they slowed down the pacing.
The world building was amazing. Scott never uses infodumps, but you are still able to get a sense of the scope of the universe she’s created. This feels like a real, breathing world. The descriptions of the Storm and the carnival on Burning Bright were particularly lovely, and there were also some nice things going on with the idea of the alien’s kinship structures.
All in all, I found Burning Bright to be entertaining but not a book I’m likely to ever return to. I would recommend this to people looking for a science fiction book with a focus on video games or which brings same sex relationships to the forefront.