Ahoy there me mateys! I was introduced to the Universe of Xuya in her novella the tea master and the detective. I adored the sentient spaceship and avidly wanted more. So I was super happy to get this story. The biggest problem is that the majority of this series are short stories and not all are easily accessible (give us an omnibus please!). The author’s excellent page discussing this world says that:
The premise of Xuya is that China discovered the Americas before the West, and that the exploration of this new continent prevented China from sinking inwards (not to mention being invaded by the Manchu, who later founded the ill-fated Qing dynasty, China’s last imperial dynasty). Xuya (旴 涯), a Chinese colony founded in the 15th Century in North America, plays a central role in the stories.
The site also gives a chronology, background, and links to the Xuya short stories available online.
This tells the stories of two women. The Empire is at war and a magistrate, Lê Thi Linh, spoke against the Emperor. She flees as a refugee to her ancestral station. This station has a sentient Mind. Lê Thi Quyen is the human administrator who helps maintain the station. Familial ties bind the two women but neither likes the other. It would be a bad relationship under normal situations but the Mind seems to be failing even though that should be impossible. With the station about to self-destruct, the family dynamics aren’t helping.
This book had a tiny bit of a rough start for me because the tone was so different from what I was expecting. The tea master was intimate in feel. This one was like I was watching from afar. Plus the narrative jumps back and forth between characters and it was slightly hard to adjust. That said, those are minor issues and I still avidly wanted to know what was going on.
I didn’t really like either of the two women because they both are obstinate to the detriment of everyone. They were still fun characters even if they are knuckleheads. I adored the world building and politics. There are other familial issues besides the antagonistic relationship of the two main characters. I found the life of the family and their relationships to be fascinating.
The ending was absolutely stunning in how it tied everything together and packed an emotional punch. This wasn’t quite a perfect read because of the start but damn did I enjoy it. I can see why it was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus in 2013. Arrrr!
Goodreads has this to say about the novella:
For generations Prosper Station has thrived under the guidance of its Honoured Ancestress: born of a human womb, the station’s artificial intelligence has offered guidance and protection to its human relatives.
But war has come to the Dai Viet Empire. Prosper’s brightest minds have been called away to defend the Emperor; and a flood of disorientated refugees strain the station’s resources. As deprivations cause the station’s ordinary life to unravel, uncovering old grudges and tearing apart the decimated family, Station Mistress Quyen and the Honoured Ancestress struggle to keep their relatives united and safe.
What Quyen does not know is that the Honoured Ancestress herself is faltering, her mind eaten away by a disease that seems to have no cure; and that the future of the station itself might hang in the balance…
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