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A novel by Ann Leckie
(2017, Orbit Books)

After bringing a convicted criminal back from prison, a young woman trying to impress her matron finds herself embroiled in an interplanetary situation involving theft, political regime changes, and a military occupation.


+ -- First reading (hardcover)
November 1st to 28th, 2019


I didn’t have any interest in the politics of this book. I didn’t engage with the characters, nor their plots to gain favor, their obsession with vestiges made of paper, rock, glass or other materials, or the culture of these planets. It’s too bad, because the author has created a rich culture and world where things are familiar and yet not familiar. The terminology for referring to people who were essentially new humans, using pronouns e and eir for he and his or they and their, introduces an interesting nomenclature for non-binary people, though the only ones we saw seemed very masculine to me. The aliens were different, and the humans from other planets/stations were even more so. There was a lot of history and backstory. These are all great things, and the hallmarks of a good book, but this one wasn’t, despite these things. The characters often repeat things over and over, even to the same audiences, which made some sequences tedious, but otherwise, the characters were not poorly drawn out. Yet I couldn’t garner any interest at all for the story that takes place in this very interesting setting. Although it picks up somewhat after the halfway mark, especially when Ingray is stuck in the Laureum and decides to take some action, it never rose above boring for me. The characters and their situations rarely went beyond unremarkable, and the revelation of the military occupation and its purpose left me underwhelmed.

Spoiler review:

The main premise of this story is the search for power, as Ingray tries something desperate to show her mother that she has some drive, some ingenuity. But she never had any plan beyond getting Pahlad free. The transport’s captain wouldn’t allow human transport, which forced her to team up with Pahlad, and he betrayed her at every turn. For some reason, she remained loyal regardless. As a liar, he insisted he wasn’t who he actually was.

The society of Hwae seems to be based on keeping treasures from famous meetings and places, whether they be on paper, wood or lacking that, it could be anything that was present at some famous meeting. It seems superficial, or meant for an economic trend, but although I had absolutely no interest in this aspect of society, I can accept it. It’s just that the story is boring -completely boring. Even when the Okmem researcher was killed, there was no excitement at all. Instead, the police investigation turns into the mystery dragged on and on, focusing instead on the politics of having a high profile person in custody.

The Geck ambassador was weird, coming and going while nobody seemed to notice except Ingray. I liked, instead, Tic Uisane, a human raised among the Geck, but forced to flee when he couldn’t develop the gills necessary to live underwater in their society. Eventually, he helps Ingray and Pahlad (now known as Garal Ket) escape. But hearing that her foster mother is being held captive, Ingray goes back to the planet, to their most sacred museum, where she faces off against the invaders from Okmem. The reasons given for the invasion were weak, but I really thought things would improve in the Laureum. In fact, it did improve, but only because Ingray finally became more assertive, and got under the skin of the two officers, even triggering alarms to lock the place down. It was by far the best part of the book, but it also went nowhere, and was frustrating as such. The reintroduction of Tic Uisane barely had any effect, except that he steals back the bowl and declaration that the Okmem were trying to take to trigger a legitimacy of their occupation.

The whole book was dull, and had very little development of plot or characters, and I was trying to whiz through it to get it over with.


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