"Shen" is an engagingly offbeat science fiction novel which the author describes (slightly tongue-in-cheek) as “space opera for the unprepared”. I particularly enjoyed Part 1 which manages to combine elements of popular realist literary fiction (e.g. the main character is having an extra-marital affair etc) with an intriguing sci-fi premise (the main character keeps finding himself on an alien spaceship, but it’s not clear why – and the other people/beings on board don’t seem too clear about it either). Part 2 sees the action move to a different planet and the focus of the novel shifts to more conventional sci-fi/fantasy territory. However, it is still quite ambitious in its attempt to depict the interplay between different racial/cultural/religious groups (Part 2 reminded me of the late Iain Banks’ “Culture” novels and Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series).
For a longer review, see: http://www.paulsamael.com/blog/shen-by-heather-douglass
(review of free book)