The Feels: Brains Need Love Too

The Feels will be the first of a reoccurring theme that I'll post from time to time, featuring books, movies, or other stuff that has had a profound emotional impact on me. Why am I calling it The Feels? Because the internet is fond of taking perfectly normal words and slashing them into pidgen-English for the sake of humor and I am known as one of those cool cats who is hip to the jibber-jabber of the cyberwebs. Or something like that.
So without further ado, grab your tissues and read on:
To preface this post, I have never seen Up and I refuse to watch Marley and Me for a very good reason: I was born a woman with a man's sense of machismo. Tearing up at a movie embarrasses the crap out of me, yet I'm hormonally predisposed to doing just that. I remember being so incredibly pms'd when I went to see A League of Thier Own that I was bawling before the previews were over.
Additionally, I'm not the kind of person who reads books or watches movies more than a handful of times before getting bored because I know what happens next. That being said, the following book makes me cry like a baby and I've probably read it at least 10 times.
As I mentioned in my last post, I'm a huge fan of McCaffrey's Brainship series. This has everything to do with the third book in the series, The Ship Who Searched, coauthored by Mercedes Lackey. Yes, technically this is science fiction. In fact, the main character is a ship. But it's also a romance, a mini history lesson, and an unapologetic tear-jerker.
To give some background, the ships in this series, as well as some hospitals, space stations, and cities, are called Brainships for a reason. The central control is actually a human brain. Now, I've tried to explain this premise to people before and received looks of absolute horror, which is understandable. In fact, the premise of this series was recently criticized as an example of science fiction's poor views of the disabled. While I can see the point, the author of that editorial is looking at a twenty year old idea with modern distortion. Also, I seem to have something of my own obsession with mutilating my characters for the sake of expanding their horizons. I'll do my best to explain without making it sound horrific.
In this fictional universe, children who are born with life threatening physical deformities are given a titanium "shell" that functions as both protection and life support. They are sent to school and when they graduate, they are "installed" in ships, or hospitals and other buildings, as the "brain" of the vessel.
This book is a bit different in that the main character, Hypatia Cade, is not born with a deformity. She comes into contact with a virus that causes total paralysis and her doctor pulls some strings to get her into the shell program. All of this happens in the first three chapters of the book and by the time Tia gets here shell, I'm choked up and sniffling.
Seriously, I've read a lot of well written emotional scenes before, but this has to be one of the best. Baen (yes, you'll see that name a lot here as they are my go to for the best traditionally published sci-fi around) has the first seven chapters available to preview online. Go ahead, read the first three and try not to cry, I'll wait...
...See what I mean? Powerful. The rest of the book is just as powerful and complex. As a brainship, Tia is paired with a "brawn", a normal human who performs as, well, the brawn of the ship, doing things that require mobility. Her choice of Alex, who doesn't fit the standard mold because he's somewhat of a classic geek, stems from his passion for archeology, which happens to be Tia's passion as well (she was on an archeological site with her parents when she contracted the virus).
Of course, in following the trope of the impossible relationship, Tia and Alex develop forbidden feelings for each other. There are so many ways this could devolve into awkward or uncomfortable territory, yet it doesn't. The complexities and agony surrounding the pair is done with such painstaking perfection that there are at least three more tear inducing scenes.
I'm not giving away the ending, but I'll just say that the resolution was satisfying without resorting to cheap trickery.
As for the profound impact, this book set a high bar for me. It proves definitively that a moving romance does not require descriptions of physical intimacy. It proves that action is fun, but scenes of introspection or characters just talking can be just as viscerally entertaining. These are just a few of the lessons I am trying to emulate with my own writing. I'm nowhere near that level yet, but I'm working on it.


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