[GUEST REVIEW] Love Against All Odds: Kristin Landon’s ‘The Hidden Worlds’


Guest blogger Heather Massey travels the sea of stars searching for science fiction romance adventures aboard The Galaxy Express. Additionally, she pens a science fiction romance column for LoveLetter, Germany’s premier romance magazine.

When it comes to genres, science fiction is my first love. I love the concepts, the grand plots, the gadgets, the space battles, the intricate worldbuilding, and all of the scientific woo-woo. Yet at the same time, I want to laugh. I want to cry. I want to be scared, disturbed, shocked. Am I being greedy? Heck yeah…and more power to me!

Therefore, I tend to gravitate toward stories where the human element enhances the speculative elements in some manner. Characters with a wide range of emotions only make science fiction tales better. Science affects worlds, civilizations, and the physical universe, but it also affects human relationships. For me, emotional engagement with the characters-especially if a relationship is at stake-is crucial to my enjoyment of science fiction.

And romantic SF is one way to deliver that payload.


Author Kristin Landon penned a trilogy that demonstrates how character-driven elements can deepen the emotional resonance of the setting and ideas. The books are The Hidden Worlds (2007), The Cold Minds (2008), and The Dark Reaches (2009) (all released by Ace). I really enjoyed the stories. In fact, Trashotron declared that “‘The Hidden Worlds’ is the first example of a Singularity-themed science fiction…romance.” I second the motion. *bangs gavel*

Here’s the premise of The Hidden Worlds:

After the Earth was destroyed by ruthless machine intelligences known as the Cold Minds, the remnants of the human race sought refuge on far-flung planets. Humanity was saved by a hereditary guild of jump pilots who now control all travel and communication among the Hidden Worlds.

Nineteen-year-old Linnea Kiaho lives on a backwater hostile planet, one of the poorest of the Hidden Worlds. To save her family, Linnea does the unspeakable: She accepts an indenture on the decadent home world of the Pilot Masters, hoping that she will be able to barter an old family secret into a future for her loved ones-and perhaps her planet as well.

Linnea’s unwilling master, the pilot Iain sen Paolo, knows nothing about her secret. But to spite his father, he joins her in uncovering a truth that could throw the Pilot masters into chaos at a time when they can least afford weakness. For after six centuries, the Cold Minds have discovered the Hidden Worlds.

In this trilogy, grim content translates to a grim romance-Linnea and Iain are not happy-go-lucky people nor are they adept at navigating the rocky waters of a new relationship. Their forbidden romance develops under the threat of constant invasion by the Cold Minds. All of which underscores the fact that a romantic angle in science fiction is more than just a few intimate moments between lovers. It can also offer insights into the human condition.

The books also contains references to sexual and physical abuse as well as passages of macabre imagery-all of which had me highly intrigued. What kind of romance would develop in such a society? How could it not develop given the dangers that threaten the very existence of humankind? Yet the stories also explore the push-pull tension of romantic priority vs. mission priority. For example, Linnea’s ambition to stop the enemy endangers her fragile bond with Iain. Given the choice between one’s lover and saving humanity, for most characters the answer is clear, but the oft-painful journey to that decision makes for some thought-provoking entertainment.

To me, the relationship between Linnea and Iain ultimately epitomizes a romance of solace. They are a hero and heroine finding solace in each other in order to achieve their mission and withstand atrocities inflicted upon them. It’s the classic, overarching theme of love against all odds. Science fiction offers a wealth of variety when it comes to speculative concepts, the very least of which is the reassurance of hope and connectedness in a world gone weird.

For more information about Kristin Landon and her work, check out the following interviews at:

5 thoughts on “[GUEST REVIEW] Love Against All Odds: Kristin Landon’s ‘The Hidden Worlds’”

  1. All of which underscores the fact that a romantic angle in science fiction is more than just a few intimate moments between lovers. It can also offer insights into the human condition.

    I’m right there with ya’. Science Fiction extrapolates on the future and examines how technology may shape that future with huge stakes. Science Fiction Romance personalizes those stakes and examines how technology might affect our relationships. It sounds like the conflict of the love story is intricately tied to the world-building in The Hidden Worlds, so I will definitely be picking up this one.

  2. I’m sad b/c I picked up the Cold Mines at the bookstore, thinking it was the first in the series. Started reading it, started loving it, then realized I was missing something. :-( 

    The Hidden Worlds is on my Xmas list. How many days ’til the 25th????

  3. @Lisa “personalizes those stakes”–oh, me like how you characterized it! Thanks for commenting. You’re insightful, as always.

    Oh, Sandy–too bad. I try to avoid something like that at all costs but with some book packaging it’s difficult to know. Some of my favorite scenes are from The Cold Minds. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series!

    And so cool that we get to dish about romantic SF here at John’s joint!

  4. Lisa, I hope you’ll enjoy The Hidden Worlds! I didn’t set out to write a science fiction romance, but the fact is that novels I write do seem to have a developing human relationship near the center. The characters I find most interesting, and thus most fun to write about, are people who can (or are learning to) reach out and trust, sometimes against pretty rough odds. That may not be all the story is about, but it’s right there at the heart.

    Sandy, I sympathize about The Cold Minds. I had a pretty hard mission with these books, to try to write them to stand alone but also to have them hold together as a series. The challenge was even bigger with the third book, because I didn’t know there would be one until after I had finished the second. That’s not a complaint; I was delighted to be asked to write The Dark Reaches, and I had all the help I needed from my wonderful editor, Anne Sowards, to help things fit together. It’s been her suggestions and guidance that have made these books work.

    Heather, this was a delightful surprise to come home to after my first SF convention (Orycon 31 in Portland, Oregon—a wonderful con, and I highly recommend the next one!). Thank you so much!

     

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