Well, at this point I’ve finished reading the three partials, so I figure I’ll write up a post from my notes while it’s fresh! As it turns out, Orbit sent out 103 pages from each work, not five chapters, that just happened to be the divisions for the first work.
Parasite – this one has a fairly intriguing premise: genetically engineered tapeworms as health aids have saved a woman’s life after she had a seizure and crashed. She was declared brain-dead and the doctors were on the verge of pulling life-support when she suddenly woke up – with no memory. Not your usual amnesia either; she couldn’t even remember language! Unfortunately the first hundred pages fails to hook me: it introduces Amnesia Girl, Amnesia Girl’s Doctor Boyfriend, and Token Lesbian (how TL’s detailed personal affairs are relevant to the plot is beyond me, unless it’s as assurance that she’s not Amnesia Girl’s competition for the affections of Doctor Boyfriend) as well as the conflict – people are randomly turning into sleepwalking “zombies” out of the blue, apparently in groups. Unfortunately Amnesia Girl and Doctor Boyfriend don’t seem to be placed to become the protagonists dealing with the new and mysterious epidemic, and this is a hundred pages in, mind, so a failure-to-hook is pretty bad. The plot gears are present, but they’re not hooked up and turning, as it were.
Ancillary Justice – The “flashback” portion of the storyline that takes place during The Last Annexation well and truly caught my interest, despite being interspersed with a rather boring “present-day” storyline, and the 103 pages cuts off right before SHTF and I wanna know what happens! Amazon reviews indicate that the ending may be rather weak, however, so I’m definitely going with borrowed-from-library if I can get my hands on a copy tomorrow morning.
I have to warn any potential readers that the author of this work deliberately chose to mutilate the English language in a rather brain-breaking way, and in 100 pages doesn’t actually provide any convincing story-logic for it, which is a cardinal sin. You can mess with the language, but it had better be significant to the story if you’re going to put the reader through that, and I’m not yet convinced that it is significant to the story. The problem: the author states that the main character’s native tongue has no gendered pronouns… and chooses to use “she” as a neuter pronoun (and has the protagonist continue to use it even in the face of others using what one must assume is the “correctly” gendered pronoun)… when the English language’s default-for-unknown-gender-pronoun is he. (Not they. Never they. “They” is plural!) “She” – despite David Weber’s occasional annoying use of it as neuter – is reserved exclusively for females. That’s right: us girls get our own damn pronoun, and applying it indiscriminately as a neuter pronoun is Just. Not. Right. If you need a neuter pronoun for “translation” purposes, either make one up (fringe feminism has some, I’m sure, just pick one!) or use “he”. What makes it worse is the fact that I’m pretty sure the author deliberately writes so as to use the mangled pronouns as much as possible. Gah. (Complaint will be withdrawn if suitable story-logic is later presented, such as the Radchaai reproducing solely by parthenogenesis/IVF and artificial wombs. Until that point, “he” is the acceptable gender-unknown pronoun, on the grounds that only males become eunuchs. So there.)
Also, I’m not quite buying that a two-thousand-year-old sophisticated spaceship AI is really that socially autistic, or that a polity that uses thousands-of-years-old technology is a militarily dominant, actively colonial power. A stagnant feudal polity can exist, especially one based on Eastern religious philosophy: but historically it wasn’t China that had the Empire upon which the sun never set! Not to mention that expanding empires, even of the non-innovative kind, can end up with technological advancement because they’re copying it from the conquered lands.
But despite these flaws, I’m still gonna check it out from the library. Because I wanna see how a crippled AI down to one ancillary human body instead of a troop-ship controlling hundreds handles the project of a revenge-killing on the emperor*, who has thousands of bodies. Heh heh heh.
*Yet another example of English grammatical mangling: technically the Lord of the Radchaai should be Lady since it’s referred to as she, and if the “translated” language doesn’t have gendered pronouns then why would it have gendered nouns; or, why would the translator make such a dweeby mistake as to apply the masculine-gendered noun “lord” to someone otherwise identified as “she”? At least be consistent!
Neptune’s Brood – this book is apparently about the adventures of a robot historian of accountancy as she travels in an academic pilgrimage-turned-hunt for missing sister. There’s also apparently an assassin/identity thief dogging the accountancy historian’s trail. Why, I don’t know; possibly having something to do with the mysteriously missing sister. If this sounds suspiciously boring, you’re totally right: I started thinking “Why am I reading this? It’s boring” at about page 50, and by page 62 I decided I was too bored with Ms. Robot Accountancy Historian to care if the military-grade robot assassin successfully offed her and took her place, or not. It might have been more interesting if the assassin robot was an actual AI person, but the author most definitely tells us that it’s not a person, just a programmed drone. With military-grade machine cells. Still don’t care.