Just a stranger on the bus

Venus Preserved — Tanith Lee
The Secret Books of Venus, book 4

venus-preserved

2003’s Venus Preserved is the fourth and final volume in Tanith Lee’s Secret Books of Venus.

Lost beneath rising seas, Venus was resurrected as a submarine city, safe within its impenetrable dome. Not satisfied with granting apartments to those who can prove descent from former inhabitants of Venus, the brilliant minds behind Venus have turned to a bold stratagem to repopulate the city:

Resurrect the dead!


Venus’ scientists have gone beyond mere cloning (growing a twin from genetic material) to something even more remarkable. The memories of the long dead have been recovered and installed in their clones. Musician del Niro was slain by a cursed mask centuries ago, while slave gladiator Jula was poisoned millennia ago. Now they live again.

Their new lives are complicated by newcomer Picaro. Detached and disinterested in the people around him, he is drawn to Jula for reasons he cannot articulate. Picaro reminds Jula of the African she killed in her last fight before she was murdered for being too successful. But he is not her old opponent in new flesh; he is something else entirely.

Until now, Venus has been a paragon of modern science, a showpiece for what humans can achieve with reason and craftsmanship. Now del Niro will show what magic can do… a grand display that the few survivors will never forget.

 ~oOo~

My list of books where the main problem was solved with weaponized kissing is now one longer.

Although the novel is more than a decade old, it is up-to-the-minute in that Lee clearly believed in diversity. Lee introduces a gladiatrix and her imagined Venus has boasted a number of African-descent citizens for quite some time. (This is actually NOT all that surprising in a city whose roots go back to Roman times; Romans believed in equal-opportunity slavery, not racism.) It may be surprising to SFF fans whose version of the past is that everyone important was male and melanin-challenged.

If this had been any other author than Tanith Lee, I would comment sarcastically on the wisdom of raising the dead. It is Tanith Lee, however, so there was never any guarantee that necromancy would turn out badly. I mean, it turned out OK in Sung in Shadow and Bones of the Earth. And with one notable exception, the primary issue in this book with reviving the dead is that the city does a sub-par job of acclimating them to their new circumstances. Jula is convinced she is still a slave and given how the city treats her, she has a case.

The problem in Venus Preserved is not a Jurassic Park issue (where hubris and poor design will lead to disaster, the only question being when) but an Outside Context problem . The people running the city envision everything in scientific terms. Unfortunately for them, they encounter a problem in applied theology. It’s not that they created a T Rex and then failed to provide solid fences for it. They tried to create a peacock, but managed to produce Cthulhu.

It’s unlikely that Venus forgot to make off-site backups of their research. I don’t think anyone who understood what was going on survived the novel, so there is no way to avoid a repeat of the mistake. Despite this, the novel ends on something like a… well, not a happy note but a hopeful one. Venus has fallen before and risen. It may have been leveled by a scientific mistake, but it will rise again. Calamity is not an ending.

Venus Preserved is available here.

Title

Missing or dead mothers

Missing or dead fathers

The Birthgrave

1

1

The Storm Lord

1

1

Volkhavaar

2

2

Drinking Sapphire Wine

0

0

Night’s Master

2

1

Shadowfire

2

1

Death’s Master

3

3

Sabella

1

1

Day By Night

1

2

Silver Metal Lover

0

0

Delusion’s Master

1

1

Cyrion

0

0

Anakire

2

1

Sung in Shadow

1

0

The White Serpent

1

1

The Book of the Beast

0

1

Electric Forest

1

0

The Book of the Mad

1

2*

Lycanthia

0

0

A Heroine of the World

1

1

The Winter Players

0

2

Delirium’s Mistress

1

0

The Blood of Roses

2

1

Castle of Dark

1

0

Prince on a White Horse

0

0

Heart-Beast

0

0

Quest for the White Witch

1

0

Shon the Taken

0

0

Black Unicorn

1

1

Gold Unicorn

0

1

Dark Dance

1

1

Personal Darkness

1

1

Darkness, I

0

0

Wolf Tower

1

1

Faces Under Water

0

0

Red Unicorn

0

1

Saint Fire

1

0

A Bed of Earth

1

1

Louisa the Poisoner

2

1

Venus Preserved

1

2

39 books

35* absent mothers

30** absent fathers


* Includes one aunt.

** Includes one uncle.


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