Jenny's Library

Reading Round-up 2013: week 40 – novels

Posted on: January 2, 2014

cover image for Data RunnerData Runner by Sam A. Patel

Jack Nil has a plan. One that includes college, not becoming a data courier like his friends.  Ferrying data wouldn’t be so bad, if it wasn’t so dangerous – but now that the internet is no longer free, data runners are the only way for anyone to send practically anything, and capturing the being sent data often involves harming the runner. Then Jack’s dad loses a card game to the wrong person, and all of Jack’s plans fall apart and he finds himself running for his life.

Data Runner has an interesting premise, it just isn’t very well written.  Which I could have forgiven, if there had been more than one significant female character in the whole book.  It wasn’t so bad that I won’t try another by this author (the one female character was at least interesting, and the cast was racially diverse) but not good enough that I can recommend it.

cover image for FledglingFledgling by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Theo Waitley might be a little clumsy, and her school group might not always get the best marks, but she’s doing well enough, and she couldn’t be happier being where she is, living in the suburbs with her mother and the man she calls father, and commuting to the Wall for school.  Until, suddenly, her mother announces that she and Theo are moving into faculty housing, and Theo doesn’t have a say.  Making matters worse, the stress of the move and the constant surveillance of living in the Wall means that Theo is messing up even more than usual; with so many notes in her file, will Theo soon be declared a Danger to Society?

It took me a while to like this story; thankfully, it’s an easy and pleasant read even before that, so I never wanted to throw it against a wall or anything.  I think my main problem was that coming in during the middle of an established series meant that I had Questions. That weren’t being Answered.  And it took a while for the questions that were more pertinent to this particular plot to dominate my curiosity instead.  Once it was established that there was logic to what the adults were doing (well, some of them, anyway) and Theo got off the ship (and stopped putting herself down so much) it got much more interesting.

cover image for Sister Emily's LightshipSister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen

An eclectic collection, this anthology has some hits and some misses, as they often do.  My favorites include “Become a Warrior”, a tale of patient vengeance, and the initial story, “The Traveler and the Tale”, which is perfectly placed and sets up a dialog about the meaning of narrative and how it shapes what we believe and hope for.

As a collection though, it’s a bit odd.  The anthology as a whole lacks balance and cohesion.  The jacket copy claims that the stories were chosen “show off [Yolen’s] art to it’s fullest” but the effect is more one of disarray than a demonstration of depth and variety.  It will appeal to fans of Yolen’s work, of which there are many, and particular stories are sure to stand out, but the anthology itself fails to make a memorable impression.

cover image for Ancillary JusticeAncillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Breq once served the Radch Empire, but not as a mere soldier. Rather, she was once a ship, the Justice of Toren, and her intelligence lived in both the ship itself and in the thousands of ancillary soldiers – repurposed corpses – assigned to the Justice. Now, her existence confined to a single ancillary, she travels the galaxy in search of answers and revenge.

Books about ships aren’t supposed to make me cry, but this one did. The world – worlds, really – that Leckie creates are not only full of detail, they are also full of humanity. Full of people and relationships, jealousies and desires. Ancillary Justice is about what it means to be human.  Not merely as an individual, in the traditional golden age science fiction sort of way, but as a part of a system, a culture, someone whose sense of self is defined by their connection to others.

Oh, and it also does this really fascinating thing where Breq constantly uses female pronouns to refer to everyone – at least in her head, anyway – because that’s how her culture does things.  It’s disorienting and thought provoking in the best way.

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2 Responses to "Reading Round-up 2013: week 40 – novels"

Ancillary Justice was so great. So heartbreaking. ;___;

So so so good. And yes, incredibly heartbreaking.

It’s also the second book I read this year where [x] happens, and the books in which [x] happens are both so very different and yet both so very good. I’m not quite sure what that means. :p

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