24 February 2017

frayadjacent: Aeryn Sun in her PK spaceflight suit, sorta smiling (Farscape: Aeryn spacesuit)
What have you recently finished reading?

Ninefox Gambit,
by Yoon Ha Lee. I...don't know what to think about this. I liked it, but a lot less than the hype led me to think I would. The story was interesting -- there was never a point when I had to work up the motivation to read -- but I never got that emotional pull I need to really invest in its characters. OK, maybe not never -- I started to get that pull at the very end, but, in a too little too late sort of way. Partly, I think, the twist that I was waiting for -- I didn't know what it would be, but I knew there had to be one -- came about 85% of the way into the story. I did not need quite as much time on the battle tactics/war is hell stuff as we got for most of the story.

The most interesting aspect of the book for me was the presentation of the Kel, and what loyalty and obedience to authority meant for the various Kel characters. That obedience is achieved through physical changes to the brain that basically force it, but as far as I could tell all service to the Kel was voluntary, so the Kel do have agency (and very distinctive personalities) despite the brainwashing. Cheris, the main character, joined the Kel because she wanted to fit in. This seems to be directly connected to her position as an outsider -- someone whose people were recently colonised, whose native language is not the high language of the empire, etc. The formation instinct comes up in many ways: we see one Kel character resent of the forced obedience, we see a character for whom the process fails, and we see a character whose fear is only barely overcome by the formation instinct. And of course, in the end, it becomes central to the story.

But also the book was gory, with references to violence and torture so extreme it became tiresome. (On the other hand, it wasn't actually any worse than the horrors shown in the original Star Wars trilogy, it was just that there was actual substantial narrative attention to the magnitude of destruction.)  And I was not that into the magic tech -- it was frustrating to have something that fundamentally makes no sense, way beyond the way that FTL or transporters or other standards of SF make no sense, be so central to the mechanics of the plot. I heard one booktuber describe it as a sort of magical realism, but for me magical realism gives a sense of the uncanny, and I just...didn't feel that with Ninefox Gambit.

Given how popular this book has been, I sometimes wonder if I don't actually like scifi as much as I think I do.

What am I reading now?

After Atlas, by Emma Newman, in my quest to have something to nominate for the Hugos. I was a little reluctant to read this because I'm not generally interested in the detective genre, but I (mostly) loved Planetfall so I wanted to give it a shot. What I loved most about Planetfall was the main character Renata, and I knew it was unlikely After Altas would feature a character who I'd identify with that much. That is true, but Carlos, the protagonist of After Atlas, is a fantastic character and I'm really enjoying the book so far. I've concluded that Newman is a master at writing characters whose perspective you can deeply understand and empathise with, while also being able to recognise where their judgment is wrong. That is quite an impressive skill. I also really like the way that the book explores the impact of technological changes on people and society, especially in that technology that is genuinely useful and pleasurable is *also* used for social control.

Also, the book seems to be indirectly exploring the effect of automation in creating a vast surplus population whose labor is no longer needed. This is an interesting contrast to Planetfall, where the small society is basically living with full communism and a high level of automation and sustainable technology -- a high-tech ecotopia. The same tech (except light-speed space travel) exists on Earth in After Atlas, but under capitalism the technology creates misery even as it creates convenience and solves problems like food production.

So maybe I do like scifi, just not space opera? But I have a feeling there is some space opera I would like.

What's up next?

More potential Hugo nominations -- I'm thinking of reading A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers even though I haven't read A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. I get the impression the former can stand alone.

I've also downloaded the audiobook version of the Great Courses Plus lecture series about the French Revolution, but I haven't started it yet as I've been listening to podcasts.

Profile

frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (Default)
fray-adjacent

July 2017

S M T W T F S
      1
2 345678
910 1112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

Tags

Page Summary

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated 23 August 2017 07:16 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios