Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Reviews 18 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg: Theirs Not To Reason Why by Jean Johnson

Reviews 18
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Theirs Not To Reason Why by Jean Johnson 

The general topic of this blog is Alien Romance which means Romance between someone like you and someone very much not like you.

Perhaps the alien is a ghost, a being from another planet, a human/alien half-breed like Spock, someone from another Dimension, or as the Ancient Greeks had it, a "god" who mates with a human to produce a Hero whom they then proceed to torture with various forms of abuse.

The best science fiction takes the current bleeding edge scientific theories and applies the speculations:
A) What if ....
B) If Only ....
C) If This Goes On ...

The kind of science fiction I like best plays out those speculations against the human dimension of Relationships.

The very-very best have Human Relationships galore plus a Romantic Ignition of real Love, a Soul Mate, and a huge scientific problem that, if not solved, will destroy the Relationships and prevent the Romance from culminating in Happily Ever After.

In other words, the "stakes" in the main plot involve the HEA goal of life.

The opposition, or conflict, that causes Characters to take chances, make decisions, commit to insane courses of action, to play for high stakes in order to be able to solve the problem and attain the HEA, is Ignorance.  What you don't know can kill you.  Or worse, destroy you.

Some really great novels turn on the Ignorance of Characters where what they do not know is already known to others -- e.g. secrets, international intrigue, spying, or just the "secrets" adults keep from children.

But in science fiction the "ignorance" obstacle is about something that nobody knows, no human has ever known, that may in fact be (at this point in time) unknowable by the human brain which has yet to evolve the capacity to know it.

In order to bring the Romance to fruition, that Ignorance must be dispelled.

To live Happily Ever After in a science fiction romance novel, the Characters must discover something nobody has ever known before.

Sequels are generated as these Characters try to disseminate their new Wisdom.  They may be living the Happily Ever After life they fought to achieve, but now that they are happy, they can not endure the misery of others.

"If only everyone knew this!" then everyone would be happy like we are.  But of course, nobody will listen.

When was the last time you lost an argument and just changed your whole view of the universe to the winner's notion, changed your religion and politics, to the opposite of what they were just because someone proved you wrong?

In comics aimed at children, you often see a plot where a character just Changes from one illustrative panel of the story to the next because they learn something from another character.

In real life, we all know how stubbornly we cling to the views we have invested in emotionally, regardless of new facts uncovered.  Even when we profess to have adopted a new belief, even when we believe we have adopted a new belief -- the old belief still creeps into our behavior.  Real change takes years, even decades, to integrate into behavior and values, into emotional responses.

New science describes certain brain functions that make some people more capable of changing their minds about their beliefs than others.  Humans differ from each other, and some differences are hardwired into the brain structure, or so new science reveals.


In old fashioned science fiction (published to the market of adolescent boys), new facts changed minds if only the main character could prove them.

In modern science fiction, and a lot of Fantasy, the main character has to kick butt and go their own way to save the universe.

Jean Johnson
has given us a wonderful example of the lone woman from a tight-knit and loving family who accepts the responsibility to save the galaxy's civilization as she knows it, just because she discovers something nobody else knows.

This is the 5 book series, Theirs Not To Reason Why by Jean Johnson.  The main character is named Ia.

Here are all 5 books as a single Kindle download.


You can get the paper ACE Books editions, but several of them are very thick with small type.

Note the volume titled Hardship is more slender with larger type as it was split off from the 5th volume, Damnation.

The series was planned as 4 books, then the final volume split.  Hellfire is 476 pages in paper, and the type is telephone book size.

The 5 volumes tell one continuous story focused tightly on the character named Ia.  The writing cleverly allows you to enter the series at any point.

Each volume is a complete story, and the backstory is well enough sketched that everything makes sense and reads smoothly.  But the series is a series -- it's more fun in read order.

A Soldier's Duty
An Officer's Duty

Hellfire and Damnation are ship's names.  Hardship and Damnation were to be one book titled Damnation.

It is military SF set in a galactic war situation, tightly focused on the main character, a woman named Ia who enlists in the Service, does boot camp, rises from an enlisted grunt to top Admiral with a lot of power-titles bestowed on her by various allied civilizations.

The reason I enjoyed it so much is that the story is a mature, adult version of the standard "Mary Sue" fanfic that I love so much.  Then the last book in the series ends off with a surprise "reveal" that changes your perspective on whether it is a "Mary Sue"  because well, maybe it's not.

On her website http://jeanjohnson.net Jean admits she did go to professional writing after writing fanfic, and she knows the fanfic field.  I consider that a plus.

Theirs Not To Reason Why as a series, is a very well constructed multi-volume story arc, and has a standard Galactic War plot line, standard (if ridiculously successful) military career arc complete with a change in service branch.

But to this familiar structure, Jean Johnson adds the Fantasy dimension of Precognition raised to the level of science.  And that makes the rocketing rise in military grade completely plausible.

There is no explanation though for the maturity level of this 18 year old girl who over the course of a few short years becomes trusted with the destiny of the galaxy by older, wiser, heads.

Predicting the future accurately (even with a fudge factor for lesser probabilities that manifest) does not give you judgement.

So suspend disbelief and just gobble up these novels.  They comprise one huge, great read.

In the Theirs Not To Reason Why series, many people (human and otherwise) in this galactic civilization have working precognition that spans anywhere from a few minutes to maybe weeks or months.

But ONLY our Heroine, Ia, can "see" up the timestream for more than a thousand years.  Such a person was prophesied and at least one planet has believed such a person would come onto the scene.  She wins their recognition as that prophet of a thousand years.

Ia sees a galactic invasion coming, tries to find a way for her galaxy to survive it, and can see only one way through.  She knows it will cost her all hope of an HEA at the end of it all.  It will cost her every good thing that life brings -- and eventually it will cost her life itself.  But it will save the galaxy.  One life to save trillions.

The threat Ia sees coming will arrive in about 300 years.  She could choose to live out her life, claim her HEA, and a cozy familiy life.  But she can't because she can see the disaster looming via Precognition.

She tries to find another way and can't, so she launches into a career to make the reputation she needs to gain the credibility and political power necessary to save the galactic civilzation.
Her every move is guided by her Precognition.  She anticipates the results of each move everyone in a pivotal role will make and because of her accuracy in prediction, she gains support.

That's a Mary Sue premise -- that people will accept someone who is correct because they are correct.
All you have to do is prove you are right, and people will accept you even if not exactly love you.

Real life doesn't work that way, so suspend disbelief to read these novels.  Ultimately, it will be worth the effort because there's plenty here to enjoy, and Ia does take a lot of flak because she is correct which adds a dash of realism.

So with a background in fanfic, Jean Johnson grabbed my heart, and with a background in professional Romance Novels, she warmed my heart.  In July 2015, the top page of jeanjohnson.net carried some comments by Jean about Fifty Shades of Gray and where it fits into the Romance genre.

-----QUOTE from Jean Johnson  http://jeanjohnson.net ----------

It's normally considered polite to "not say anything bad" about another author's book, as a sign of professional respect...but during the recent media storm and counter-storm regarding the movie adaptation of "Fifty Shades of Gray" being released on Valentine's Day (which I will call FSoG for short), I have decided to put my reputation as an author on the line.

Now, to get this absolutely clear: I do not object to the existence of FSoG. I think it has every right to exist as a written work. Furthermore, I came from fanfiction myself; I know what gets written in fanfic genres. I know the quality of writing can also vary widely from...well, juvenile quality of the sort which most people would never dare show in public, to highly sculpted, truly beautiful prose of a level I myself am still trying to somehow magically attain (i.e. take several more years of hard work and practice). I therefore have no problems with that side of things, either. And if the novels (there are 3, fyi) were written to be, say, psychological horror stories / abuse survivor stories, I'd have no problems with the subject matter at all.

However, I do have a problem with FSoG being promoted as something good, desirable, and emulatable in a romantic relationship.

This series has been repeatedly analyzed by experts in fields of psychology, psychiatry, domestic abuse, AND the kink communities out there, as an utterly unhealthy relationship. These experts in their fields pretty much all agree that the majority of the three stories are not at all romantic, and in fact are rather alarming when considered in the light of the way FSoG and its sequels have been promoted as something which men and women should want, should aspire to, should seek out, and should emulate in their own lives. Indeed, the experts pretty much agree that the FSoG books appear to be romanticized domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse is a subject which I take very seriously. It is not romantic.
---------END QUOTE-------

I read that quote after I finished reading the novel series Theirs Not To Reason Why, so it did not color my enjoyment of the books.

I've been thinking lately that we're lacking in TV Shows, films and books that portray characters worth emulating, portray someone you want to become, or whose existence is a breath of fresh air energizing you to become a better self.  Heroes who enjoy life, challenge, risk, and throw themselves into it with zest like Star Trek's Captain Kirk seem to be missing in action.  Jean Johnson's work may change that.

These two facts obtained from her website explain exactly why I fell in love with this series.  I respect this author -- vastly, emphatically, and unshakeably.

She's got two factor identification with me -- fanfic and Abuse Is Not Romantic.

This two-factor-identification between author and reader is a point I've made in several series of writing craft posts about targeting an audience and using theme to target an audience.

Ultimately, the people who like to read your novels are people who have an affinity for something you are saying, and therefore are willing to listen to you say it if only to disagree with you and discuss that disagreement with their friends who they will insist must read your books.





There are a lot of technical craft problems with Theirs Not To Reason Why, a lot of scenes I'd have cut or condensed, many words I'd have cut, pacing that's just a bit off, characters I'd have framed differently, but there are two things Jean Johnson nailed to perfection that are worth studying:

1) Military Career (telescoped in time due to precognition, but realistic), 2) Precognition.

Johnson has postulated a theory of the nature of Time itself, and depicted it with ruthless consistency.

She has allowed for the vagueries of probability, thrown some curves at her Heroine, baited her with temptations to seek happiness instead of saving the galaxy.

This postulation of a theory of Precognition based on a concept of "Time" that holds water (well, tightly enough for fiction), makes these books "real" science fiction, not just a military action story set in space.

The presence of a Love Interest that is not allowed to blossom into full Romance because of the need to save the galaxy from invaders makes this not-quite-but-almost Romance.

The combination sets up an opening for other writers to explore.
The publishing industry is morphing and genres are being redefined.  Theirs Not To Reason Why by Jean Johnson is a pivotal, watershed work in the combining of Romance and Science Fiction.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the Alien Romance angle.  Ia, the Heroine, is only half-human --- she is half energy-creature with teleporting powers.  Her love interest is a human male.

Already a National Best Selling Author with a number of genuine Romance Novels to her credit (and more to come) Jean Johnson has our hearts in her hands and our minds in her clouds (or timestreams).

If you read nothing else the rest of this year, read Jean Johnson's Theirs Not To Reason Why series.

There are more novels set in this series universe yet to come, so you will want the series in your background.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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