The book is about an A.I. hiding in a human body. She used to be a spaceship, but is no longer that. She tries to navigate a human world. It is an epic science fiction story of the same kind of cloth that Dune was cut from.
To me this book is very much like Dune and I hope it will get the same kind of recognition. It is the same kind of story somehow. It is as philosophical, military, epic, sad and filled with action as Dune.
I gave up trying to comment on the book as I read it because of the seer number of things I wanted to comment on as I read. Some pages has two or three highlights in my kindle version, and I never highlight while reading. As you can probably see the language is really great and there are some quite quotable quotes in there. To mention one, the emperor says:
I didn’t get where I am by having reasonable goals
Gender, music, songs, memory, identity, faith, destiny and moral choices are all strong themes throughout the book. And it helps make it a really crunchy and interesting read.
The ending very much remind me of Dune as well, but I can hardly talk about that without spoiling it. I will just say that I will be recommending this and nominating it where-ever I get the chance.
I will not write more right now other than: I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who like epic science fiction of the kind that are both very personal and bigger than life. I hope you read it and enjoy it.
I read this on kindle (or rather on my kindle ad on my android tablet), and this book is so good I want a physical copy of it. I want to be able to hand to my friends and say, please read this and I want to be able to look at it on my bookshelf and go, ahhh I should read this again.
Reading – the first 10 %
This is the passage that made me interested in the book and that Tansy mentioned on Galactic Suburbia. I really hope this gets explored more in the rest of the book.
She was probably male, judging from the angular mazelike patterns quilting her shirt. I wasn’t entirely certain. It wouldn’t have mattered, if I had been in Radch space. Radchaai don’t care much about gender, and the language they speak – my own first language – doesn’t mark gender in any way. This language we were speaking now did, and I could make trouble for myself if I used the wrong forms. It didn’t help that cues meant to distinguish gender changed from place to place, sometimes radically and rarely made much sense to me.
I don’t think I have read anything with an A.I. as the narrator of the story. This really have an impact on the way the story is told. She is noticing and wondering about things in a quite inhuman way.
Sometimes I don’t know why I do the things I do. Even after all this time it’s still a new thing for me not to know, not having orders to follow from one moment to the next.
Humans might not always know their own motivations, but this is a part of the human experience not something foreign and no more a source of stress than a hundred other things we run into every day.
If that was what she wanted I had no right to prevent her. But if she had wanted to die, why hadn’t she done the thing cleanly, registered her intention and gone to the medic as anyone would? I didn’t understand.
For most humans it would be harder to understand the a suicidal intent than not understanding the means of that suicide. Though this could of course be the thought of a human, it does have a rather cold edge to it. What I am trying to say is that the voice of the narrator (I am still not sure what she is called) has a quite alien feel to it and it is quite effective.
So far the only thing that has annoyed me about the story, is a hobby horse of mine in science fiction. The narrator is 2000 years old and one of the other space ships is 3000 year old. 3000 years ago in human history was the period where Homer wrote the Odyssey – 3000 years is pretty much all of human history (the part where we have written sources). The scale of human history simply is not counted in thousands of years, but in hundreds. I do not understand why this huge time scale is needed in telling of fantasy and science fictions stories. In societies without written sources 150 years is long enough to be always. And 500 years in a society is enough that there are huge chunks of history where we just do not know what happened. Having an empire rain for much more than 1000 years is simply unprecedented. Having the same political system for more than 1000 years is also becoming a stretch – yes even for China – there are huge changes in how things are run when you look at that long periods. Having the same dynasty for that long in the case of fantasy – that is just silly – especially if you need a male heir. I will stop ranting. So in my head I just think of that long time scales as a way of saying – for a very long time. Of course the crazy long time spans might get explained.
Another interesting little tid-bit about gender and linguistic (and yes I like quotes)
Because I knew everyone here, I knew she was female, and a grandparent, both of which had to be acknowledged if I were speaking to her not only grammatically but also courteously.