Quarter Share, by Nathan Lowell, is a very clean introduction to science fiction. It would be easy to picture this book being set in the 1800s rather than the further future. In this universe, a "quarter share" is the lowest birthing of crew on a working starship, and is where unskilled labor usually falls. Upon the death of his mother at the opening paragraphs of the book, our hero, Ishmael Horatio Wang (his parents had a horrible sense of humor), signed up for a quarter share as unskilled labor on the good ship Lois McKendrick, a deep-space trader. Under the cheerful management of Cookie (the cook, of course), and the other scullion Pip, Ish learns the ropes of being crew of the Lois, and then how to improve both his station and others' lots in life.
Quarter Share, the first in the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series, clocks in at an easy 235 pages. It is published in "quality paperback" size, so the font is almost double-spaced, as well. In short, it's a physically quick read. It is also not an emotionally intense or verbally challenging read, either. There are not hidden nuances to taunt the ear, nor heartwrenching moments to blur the eye. This is a very straightforward story of a sheltered boy who is suddenly cast into the world, and his very straightforward way of making good out of it.
For people interested in this kind of coming-of-age story, it is definitely a young adult novel, and one of the cleaner ones I've encountered of late. There is almost no emotional entanglement in the story, and the sexual overtones never get beyond a few blushes, some honestly cute commentary about Ish being a crew-mate's "boy toy" (he's not) and one easily-skipped-over comment about crew fraternization. The story stays focused on Ish discovering who he wants to be when he grows up, and his pursuit of both education and friendship across the Lois. It's quite easy to see where this series is going, and I believe it will be a pleasure to pursue that tale.
To my mind, Quarter Share is the simple, clean, and straightforward version of Balance of Trade, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Ish is unencumbered by external cultural pressures, and spends the whole of this plot focused on ship-based education. In comparison, Jethri (of Balance of Trade) is yanked from cultural group to cultural group, from ship to shore, and from there to trader's academy, all in one book. I am curious to see if Ish follows the same model in future books, and will end up doing in many volumes what Jethri was written into pursuing in just one.
-- New-to-me books read in 2011 (as opposed to re-reads) --
Little Dee vol 2
Little Dee vol 3
The Black Stallion (yes, I know, I should have read it with Black Beauty)
Ravens in the Library: Magic in the Bard's Name, with a pre-finished commentary here
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Fang Bangers: An Erotic Anthology of Fangs, Claws, Sex and Love
Must Love Hellhounds
Dark and Stormy Knights
Tortall and Other Lands
River Marked (2/28 - it arrived a day early)
Questionable Content, vol 1
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf
Skinwalker, A Jane Yellowrock Novel
Running with the Pack
"Skyblaze" Adventures in the Liaden Universe #17
Kings of the North
Do Not Sniff the Bees, Two Lumps book 6
The Initiate Brother
City of Pearl
An Artificial Night
After Hours: Tales from Ur-Bar
Ghost Ship (e-ARC)
-- Books abandoned rather than completed in 2011 --
Sing the Four Quarters, by Tanya Huff
-- Books Still in Progress --
These are books that I haven't totally given up on, I've just... put them aside... for now. And gee, look at how many of them are non-fiction!
The Brand Within
If You Don't Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails
Swords and Dark Magic
Wise Man's Fear