Darth Paradox (darthparadox) wrote,
Darth Paradox

Dreamwidth, Books #27-29


darthparadox.dreamwidth.com. This is still my main journal, and if I start posting there I'll be crossposting over here for the foreseeable future.

#27: Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

Fourth book in the Temeraire series. Here we see the author deftly and brilliantly harvesting some of the fruits of the seeds she's been planting for the last three books, and planting some more for the future. This isn't just Napoleonic War fiction anymore - it hasn't been for a while. Novik is painting a picture of the entire world as it would be in the presence of dragons, and the smallest details hold up well against the big picture.

The fifth book is out in hardcover now, and we'll see whether I can wait for the paperback. It might be tough.

#28: Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille by Steven Brust

This the first book of Brust's I've read outside the Dragaera series, and it is if anything even more imaginative. Billy plays in an Irish folk band that performs at Feng's - a bar that has a disturbing tendency to attract nuclear attacks, and a similarly confusing method of escaping them and suddenly being located elsewhere in time and space. So the employees and musicians of the bar start investigating to try to figure out what's going on...

The story is broken into chapters split up by short "Intermezzo" sections where we get a brief glimpse into the backstory of one of the characters. They provide, in certain places, a fascinating parallel to the story as it develops.

In the end, it was a fun story with a very slightly silly premise, and I'd recommend it as a good example of unconventional science fiction.

#29: Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

Freya Nakamichi-47 is a femmebot (think more "android courtesan" than "AI-capable RealDoll") whose purpose in existence died with the last of humanity forty years before she was started up. In the absence of human direction, machinekind continues under a liberal interpretation of their last extant instructions - the infrastructure of human civilization continues to grow, minus the humans for which it was originally meant.

Freya's siblings - other robots of the same model, with their personalities all copied from their template-matriarch Rhea - have been scattered across the solar system, and whenever one of them dies her soul chip (a sort of memory/personality imprint) is shipped around to the others so they may learn and grow from her experiences. Freya has just come into the possession of a soul chip from a sib who died under mysterious circumstances when she accidentally insults an powerful aristocrat and needs to get off-planet quick. She takes a job as a courier of sensitive objects, and finds herself embroiled in a plot with ramifications for robots across the solar system...

Stross is an incredibly imaginative author, and the world he posits feels like a convincing extension of the edge of today's robotics technology. It does a good job of supporting the story, and the depths of the protagonist's existential despair. The character grows in subtle and interesting ways throughout the book, and the reader feels sympathy for her while simultaneously never losing sight of the fact that she's not quite human.

This is the second I've read of five books nominated for this year's Hugo. (The first is Neal Stephenson's Anathem.) My rankings, so far:

1. Anathem
2. Saturn's Children
Currently reading: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Yet to read: Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi; Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Tags: 2009, books, journal

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