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The concluding episode in my Hugo reading marathon!  Huzzah!

The Craft Sequence, by Matt Gladstone, consists of five novels so far.  We get all of them in the Hugo Voter Pack, and, due to time constraints, I have read only the first one. 

By which I mean, I have read the third one, Three Parts Dead.

Read more... )

On reflection, I think my ballot goes Vorkosigan, Craft Sequence, Temeraire, October Daye, Rivers of London, The Expanse.  Temeraire might have been more fun than the Craft Sequence, but I think this was much cleverer. 

Here ends the Hugo reading for 2017!  I may read the zines for my own interest, but there's no way I'm going to have time to review them.  And it would be nice to read something for enjoyment, rather than critically and with the intent to compare it with everything else on the ballot.

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The next Series in the Best Series category is The Expanse, by James Corey.  The Voter Pack contains an excerpt from Leviathan.

I'll be honest here; I haven't really given this one a fair crack.  One big reason for this is that for some reason the Epub version on my Kobo is missing two or three lines from the bottom of every second or third page, which makes it hard to read.   But even in between that, it's not really holding my interest.  So far, all the characters seem to be of a particular 'antihero' type - the hardened cop, the hardened ship captain whose career has stalled - that doesn't do a lot for me.  I don't really care about the story.  And every time I think that something slightly interesting might be happening, there are missing lines.  This is not the fault of the book, but I really can't keep reading like this.

So I've read three chapters, and I think I'll call it quits.  I don't think it would be going high on my ballot even if I read further, because everything else on the ballot so far had me hooked within a few pages and this one doesn't.  So I think I'll leave it off the ballot entirely, unless The Craft Sequence annoys me so much that I need to put it below No Award, in which case I'll put this in fifth place, to distinguish it from the actively offensive stuff.

Incidentally, regarding The Craft Sequence, the voter pack consists of the first five novels in the series.  I'm not going to be able to read five novels by Sunday, especially since we have to drive to a funeral in the La Trobe Valley on Saturday, which is going to eat our entire day.  So I think I'll just see how far I get by tomorrow evening (and try to finish the first book, at least), and review based on that.
 

Hugo reading 2017 - Best Novel Part 6

Jul. 13th, 2017 07:53 am
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
Last novel!  Hooray! And I liked this one quite a lot, which means that now I have a problem at the top of my ballot...

But let's get on with the book.

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers, is a very sweet, kindly sort of book.  It feels like an epilogue, and I believe it takes place after another book set in the same universe.  There is not, now I think about it, a lot of obvious conflict.  It still kept me reading until after 1am on a work night because I needed to know what happened to everyone.

The book tells two stories in parallel.  The first story centres around Lovelace / Sidra, a ship's artificial intelligence system who is now trapped in a synthetic human body.  And she does feel trapped by it - she no longer has unlimited memory and access to the Linkages, which seem to be a futuristic extrapolation of the world wide web.  Her narrative arc is partly about coming to terms with her situation and figuring out how people who are not AIs (humans or aliens) work, and partly about her remaking her situation to a point where she can be content with it and have a purpose that appeals to her. 

She is helped in this by Pepper, an engineer who was once a slave called Jane 23, and the second story is hers.  This story starts when Jane 23 is ten, and, almost accidentally, escapes the factory which has been her entire world (quite literally - she does not know what the sky is, and is alarmed by this gigantic 'room' without walls).  Running from feral dogs, Jane 23 is rescued by a stranded spaceship and its AI, Owl.  Owl takes her in, and... basically teaches her how to be human.  And, over time, how to repair the ship and get off this planet.  This may sound unlikely, but Jane has been working to sort and repair broken machinery for her entire life as a slave, so while she has few other skills, she is very, very good with engineering.  I must admit, while I liked Sidra a lot, and sympathised with her struggles, it was Jane's story that kept me up until 1am wondering if - and how -  she would be OK.

Note that Jane's story is fairly disturbing - the treatment of the child slaves is chilling (we never do find out what happens when they turn twelve, but I suspect they are killed at that point), and she spends years scavenging for metal and for food, and mostly killing and eating feral dogs.  Which is something you may have a visceral reaction to.  (I just tried replacing feral dogs with feral cats in that sentence and was completely horrified and grossed out, so, yeah.)

With half the story being about an AI raised by humans and the other half about a human raised by an AI, Chambers is clearly saying a few things about what makes us human, but I'm not entirely sure what those things are.  It's clear that humanity is not limited to humans; the AI, Owl, is clearly appalled by Jane 23's treatment, which, while it was at the hands of AIs called the Mothers, is clearly something that was decided and organised by the humans.  Compassion, empathy and friendship, are clearly important things, and things that AIs can share with humans and aliens.  Another important thread is the ability to lie, something that Sidra can't do at the start of the story due to programming limitations.  Once she is able to do so, it seemed to me that her relationships with humans and aliens changed for the better.  But it is clear that AIs have free will, at least to an extent.  Sidra can choose what she wants to do and how to spend her time, provided it does not go against one of her programming restrictions.

I don't know where to put this book on the ballot.  It was far and away the most enjoyable one to read of the novels in this category, but I don't think that it was as creative as Ninefox Gambit or The Obelisk Gate.  I still want to put it at the top of the list, because I want to encourage books that I enjoy reading.  But I'm not sure if it ought to be first or second.  Then again, I suspect a LOT of people will put Ninefox Gambit first (I'm expecting that one to win, actually), so maybe it doesn't need my vote?  I shall have to ponder this.

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"What's this?", you say?  "Best series?  What happened to best novel?"

Well.  I was supposed to read Becky Chambers' book, A Closed and Common Orbit next, but I just thought I'd have a teensy look at the first book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, His Majesty's Dragon, and the next thing I knew it was 2am and I was 200+ pages in and realising that I had to work in the morning.

(OK, I realised that well before this point, but I just didn't care...)

So I wound up reading that first.  A quick note on the Best Series for me, by the way.  I've actually read everything in three of the series (serieses?) nominated this year, so I already know how they are ranked in relation to each other, and will write about them briefly here, but it's hard to review an entire series, so I probably can't do them justice. 

Read more... )

Temeraire is going up to number 2 on my ballot, pushing October Day and the Rivers of London down to 3rd and 4th place.  Bujold remains unchallenged in 1st place.

Also, I've bought the second book in the Temeraire series.

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