On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard plus The Waiting Stars

A historical review in honour of the Xuya nomination for best series.

Note that this is an old reviews I had on goodreads: obviously the format is different, and they were largely written half a decade ago.1

Hugo Nominee Review 2013 – Novella 2 (17500-40000 words)

Interesting story about family bonds in a Vietnamese influenced future empire. It revolves around two characters, a successful but dispossessed refuge, and the less successful cousin who provides refuge due to their family connection. Bound by family, these two immediately antagonize each other due to their reversal of status and own insecurities.

The setting itself is interesting, with a society structured around family hierarchies descending from common ancestors moderated by bureaucratic exams for promotion to positions of prominence. More interesting is the treatment of artificial intelligences – they are treated as generational family members and “honored ancestors”, with one protagonist in charge of the station due to her ‘descent’ from the AI that runs the station, and the other with implants that house various personalities. This integration of technology into ancestor worship elevates the setting, and provides a sense of cohesion between the imperial culture and the science fiction elements.

Ultimately I liked it, but it’s just not my thing. If tales of family responsibility and personal growth are yours, I’d recommend it, otherwise pass.

Hugo Notes

I can see why this was nominated, but it just doesn’t speak to me the way some of the other titles so far have. As I discussed in the my review of Captain Vorpitral’s Alliance however, I like to see diversity in the types of science fiction stories told, and this certainly provides that.

Note that this was a personal review for the best Novellete Category in the Hugos for 2014.

“The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)

de Bodard’s stories are usually well written and constructed but not for me.  This is the first of her stories that I thought was objectively weak. The dual structure of space rescue and refuges adjusting to a new society just did not work in the tight framing, and the second plot suffered from a lack of clear motivation for the antagonists.

 

  1. As part of the good reads reviews I put star ratings on the books, something I tend to avoid on my blog as I think it distracts from the review, but that I think is hugely valuable on an aggregator site like goodreads.  I also hope my writing has improved since then. (at least I use the word “Interesting” a lot less.

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