Sunday, June 01, 2014

Ancillary Detection

I read this year's Nebula Award winner for best novel: "Ancillary Justice", by Ann Leckie. It is a very good 1st novel, but I'm not sure it was the best of 2013. It is a space opera, with a human-based galactic empire. The 1st 2/3 of the book has 2 narrative threads, 1 in the present, and 1 doing backstory from 20 years before. The backstory thread then completes and we just finish out the present. There has been some discussion online of the oddly gendered characters in the book -- they mostly seem to be women, but there are "him" and "her" among them. It didn't seem to really affect the story much. It did make me think of "The Left Hand of Darkness", by Ursula K. LeGuin, from decades ago.

Everyone in the book was religious, with the empire's state religion being very open about enfolding other religions it encountered. I guess if you're doing a non-Culture space empire (non-utopian, non-socialist, non-anarchist), then your empire probably would embrace a state religion as a tool of control. Altho I did wonder if this was a side effect of the female empire -- women have always seemed to me on the average to be more ready to embrace religion than men.

The ending of the book is somewhat ambiguous, but we are clearly going to have at least a trilogy here. The blurbs for the next one suggest what may be an uninteresting direction. So I'll give it a try and keep my fingers crossed.

I reviewed this blog for "science fiction" for 2013. Nothing jumped out as being superior to this novel. Hannu's 2nd came out in 2012. The 2nd book of James S.A. Corey's Expanse series was nominated, but seems to me that giving awards to subsequent volumes in a series is bogus somehow.

The future I want to live in is, of course, Iain M. Banks's The Culture. He died this year of cancer, age 59, on June 9th. A new Culture novel was always a cause for rejoicing. I guess I will have to, every year or 2, go back and reread 1 of the 9 that exist.

When I finished "Ancillary Justice", I just had my iPad, which doesn't have my Kobo password memorized, so I could not buy the Piketty -- giving me an excuse to read another novel! So I read "The Manual of Detection", by Jebediah Berry. This is a retro urban fantasy, very Kafkaesque. The line between reality and dreaming is severely blurred. It reminded me some of John Crowley's early novels, where reality is blurred with fiction. It also reminded me strongly of the movie "Dark City", with the perpetual rain, and the citizens of the city being manipulated as they sleep.

This was also a 1st novel, and seemed to me a lot fresher and newer than "Ancillary Justice". It was also nice that it did not seem to be setting itself up for a sequel. To me it is one of those novels that paints a unique picture and is complete in itself.

OK, enough stalling, on to the Piketty!