Ahoy there me mateys! I have really been enjoying my foray into Elizabeth Bear’s works and this was no exception. This story follows Haimey Dz who is a member of a three person salvage crew. A routine salvage trip turns to disaster when the ship they attempt to retrieve is a crime scene. And Haimey also catches an unknown alien virus. What results is a foray into ancient alien technology, dealing with space pirates, and exploring Haimey’s own past.
While I enjoyed this book, it was a very odd read to me. Part of this stems from the fact that there is a lot of physics in this book about the folding of space time and travel. As I continue to state, physics and I are not friends. There was also a small section about music theory that went over me noggin. But most of me personal problems stem from the world-building and plot pacing.
Elizabeth Bear’s fantasy series are dense in descriptions and ideas that make the fantasy worlds feel real. The plots are meandering and slow-paced. The action sequences are spaced out and a lot of the information feels like filler that is super fun but could be removed. I loved it in her fantasy books. This space book had all of those writing hallmarks but the sequences failed to capture me fancy in quite the same way. I had to put down the book at several points because I was slightly bored with the descriptions of the tech or philosophical platitudes.
In fact, I really would categorize this book more as a character study. The sections regarding Haimey and how she deals with the “sexy pirate” or the uses of her internal brain computer or her memories to be the highlights of this book for me. I also enjoyed what existed of the interplay being Haimey and her crew. The psychological effects of Haimey’s entire journey is really what kept me reading and what interested me the most.
This book will not suit every reader. While the plot is character driven, this is a book of ideas at its core. There are philosophical conundrums like how to run a society, the responsibilities of individual, the uses of technology, the applications and rights of artificial intelligence, genetic modifications, the fundamental nature of personalities, etc. I stuck with this book because I know that the endings of Bear’s books usually pan out and make the journey worth it. This was no exception. Plus there is a giant praying mantis space detective.
Apparently this is the first in a duology. Though in Bear’s interview with Barnes & Noble she states that “It’s not exactly accurate to call it a duology, however. It’s two related books, which will have some continuing characters, but each one should stand on its own as an arc and a story . . . The second book, which is titled Machine, is about a woman is a space trauma rescue specialist for an enormous multi-species medical center.” Sign me up!
Goodreads has this to say about book two:
Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants.
She thinks she knows who she is.
She is wrong.
A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of powerful ancient technology. Haimey and her small crew run afoul of pirates at the outer limits of the Milky Way, and find themselves on the run and in possession of universe-changing information.
When authorities prove corrupt, Haimey realizes that she is the only one who can protect her galaxy-spanning civilization from the implications of this ancient technology—and the revolutionaries who want to use it for terror and war. Her quest will take her careening from the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core to the infinite, empty spaces at its edge.
To save everything that matters, she will need to uncover the secrets of ancient intelligences lost to time—and her own lost secrets, which she will wish had remained hidden from her forever.
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