Sunday, May 27, 2012

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Bring On The Socio-Political Hot Stuff: Heidi Ruby Miller’s AMBASADORA


Heidi Ruby Miller is the author of the science fiction romance AMBASADORA. Recently, she and I had some fun reading each other’s respective ebooks and decided to blog about our experiences. Heidi tackled my erotic clockpunk romance THE WATCHMAKER’S LADY while I dove into her political thriller romantic SF tale, AMBASADORA.

We decided to structure our posts in a special way. We each created a selection of talking points about our stories with the goal of teasing out the underlying themes and layers of our respective tales in non-spoiler ways. Then we exchanged our lists. 

Heidi’s AMBASADORA talking points below make a handy reference tool both during and after reading the story. Following the talking points is my commentary on some of the elements in AMBASADORA that stood out for me.

Let’s launch this baby! Here is the story blurb for AMBASADORA:

Sara Mendoza is captured, tortured, and falsely accused of treason by the Embassy, but she is given a chance to win back her freedom. She only needs to charm information from one of the fragger leaders, then kill him. But by the time she figures out the Embassy's intel is flawed and that Sean Cryer is her true mark, she's already in love with him.

Sean knows why Sara is on his ship from the start, but as a lonely, anti-social doser, he doesn't value his life, only his ideology within the fragger organization. Against his better judgment, he becomes her protector, each day caring more about a future he was always afraid to hope for.

AMBASADORA Talking Points by Heidi Ruby Miller
 
Multi-Partner Amour System and the Emotional Fallacy

In Ambasadora, we get the hint that the original worldship dwellers were a small group of refugees from Earth. As death and disease took its toll, the only way to boost population and ensure a diverse gene pool would be through multiple breeding partners. After a generation or two, this practice would become established as tradition and written as part of the History.

The fact that many citizens still tend toward monogamy is a source of problems in a society where promiscuity is encouraged. They use the term emotional fallacy to represent the weakness of devoting one's life to a single other person and condemn the idea that a person would make life decisions based on fleeting emotions and hormonal responses.

The world philosophy doesn't allow for true love. In fact, the word love is not used throughout the entire book. It is taboo.

Every Gesture Has Meaning

In this kind of sexually charged culture, where there is a caste system in place, finding genetically superior mates (called amours) would become the most important thing, even among these sophisticated and technologically advanced humans; therefore, they are a very affectionate society where every gesture signifies something, whether it's a kiss to the forehead meant as an informal greeting or honing in on a potential amour's pupil dilation to gauge attraction. Deciphering the meaning of a touch becomes an art form and flirtation reaches the level of targeted precision. 

Transparency

Sara's bio-lights, the living intra-tattoo which marks her as an ambasadora, are a physical cue broadcasting her emotions to everyone. She has no control over them, and it infuriates her that she cannot hide her feelings, from sadness to anger to arousal. 


It is a mirror for a society obsessed with voyeurism and living vicariously, either through celebrities or the virtual world of the V-side. The Media knows all, shows all, and can be manipulated by the right people to control all. Aiding the Media are little mechanical spies like voyeurs with their telescoping cameras and sensitive, multi-directional microphones and mind minstrels, which can scan a person's brain and turn their thoughts and emotions into music for the amusement of others.

In the V-side, virtual home of the techno-militant, anti-government fraggers, one can become essentially anyone or anything he or she likes and sustain that image for as long they are plugged in. By avoiding the tenets of one society, they have offered themselves up as slaves to another.

Strength Through a Lover

Sean and Sara epitomize the concept of strength through a lover—knowing there is one person in the entire world you are close to in so many ways, that this person would do anything to protect you, to make sure you're happy, to fight for you and love you, that fulfills your physical needs as well as your emotional ones. 

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Now it’s my turn! A few elements in AMBASADORA got my geek girl synapses firing and I would like to tag them for you.

Once could classify AMBASADORA under the space opera, cyberpunk, and action-adventure categories, but what particularly marks this story is its strong sociological and political themes. There’s political intrigue aplenty and the government has shades of Big Brother. It’s definitely a thinking person’s story. Expect some ambiguity here and there as the various story threads come together.

For example, in addition to the themes above, AMBASADORA explores the issue of sterility and its role in love and politics (but to say any more would constitute a spoiler).

As far as the romance-SF integration, it falls more on the romantic SF side. One of the main reasons is because the story follows an ensemble cast of characters and there are multiple viewpoint characters. Hence, the romance subplot is of the slow-burn kind. You get a chance to know the hero and heroine before they meet. Heat level: non-erotic; moderate sensuality.

The romance is fully developed from start to finish and has an HEA. There’s a nice intersection at which point the romance begins to drive the external plot. Sara and Sean begin their heroic journeys separately, but then merge into a single hero as the story progresses.

Another element that struck me was the detailed description. Heidi Ruby Miller clearly worked hard to create an immersive experience for readers. Kind of a “stop and smell the roses” experience. A related aspect is the slang and vocabulary used by the characters. The anti-government, virtual reality inhabitants known as “fraggers” is one type of term you’ll encounter. Another creative slang word is “docking,” which means sexual intercourse.

AMBASADORA is an ambitious story with a fully-realized world. Some of the scenes, especially in the beginning, are very intense (remember the word “torture” from the blurb? It’s in there.), but for me, the decidedly mature tone of the story was a plus.

If you have Amazon Prime, you can read the Kindle edition of AMBASADORA for free. Still, if you enjoy romantic SF and like taking risks, then this novel-length ebook is easily worth its $2.99 price tag. You may be also interested to know that AMBASADORA is the first in a series. Heidi Ruby Miller recently released book two, GREENSHIFT.


The author is also a blogger and sci-fi romance advocate at Inveterate Media Junkies where she hosts the monthly Geek Girl Underground. Go check it out!

Joyfully yours,

Heather