Finished April 6
The January Dancer by Michael Flynn
This science fiction novel is a true space opera. Told in installments, as a tale told from one character to another, the complex plot centers around a pre-human artifact that has an effect on all who come into contact with it.
A young woman harpist is in search of the story of this artifact, and her search has led her to a bar frequented by many travelers in the space highway, where she finds an older man, scarred and lost in his own thoughts. She supplies him with drinks, and he gradually tells her the story of the artifact, referred to as the Dancer, from its discovery by the trader named January, through many hands, to its fate as he knows it.
This is a tale of many creatures and of many worlds. The creatures include those descended from Old Earth, known as Terran, to those of newer worlds. There are those who patrol like the Hounds, and those who live for pleasure like those of Peacock Junction. The Interstellar Cargo Company (ICC) control a great many of these worlds and the space between them, but not all. There is an organization called Confederates as well. Those encountered here range from pirates to merchants, servants to thieves, and many classes of men.
There is humour and wit in abundance, and many fascinating characters that grab the reader's interest. The story of the artifact takes place across many worlds and through many sections of space.
As the harper learns the story, she retells it in her music, bringing her listeners through a range of emotions evoked by the tale of the artifact and its wake.
This is not a genre I read a lot of, and yet I found myself fascinated by the complex plot and the world created by Flynn.
He includes a character list, a map, and an explanation of the time system as it relates to the time system we use now.