Completed 8/28/2022, Reviewed 8/28/2022
I have been hit or miss with Elizabeth Bear. This is the sixth book I’ve read of hers for various reasons. This time it was because it was my book club’s selection. Upon reading this book, my opinion of Bear hasn’t changed. In fact, it went down a little bit. This book was sooooo boring. It has so much prosy description and self-reflection that after a hundred pages, I didn’t think there was going to be a plot. Then when it was introduced, it had hardly any forward movement, playing second fiddle to the mounds and mounds of mental masturbation by the main character. The only reason I finished the book was because it was for book club. And it took me so long to read this 550 page monstrosity that when I did finish it, it was a relief, but not satisfying.
Haimey Dz is an engineer on a tug ship. She runs salvage missions of abandoned spacecraft with her ship AI, Singer, and Connla Kurucz, who I think was the pilot of the tug. They go after a ship and find it has the rendered remains of the whale/dragon-like race whose sentience is contested. There could only be one culprit, pirates. This leads them on a big chase with a particularly nasty pirate. At one point, she disables Haimey’s brain chip and she finds that her real memories are very different from her own. In other words, she has no idea who she really is. But the question is, will Haimey bring the pirate to justice or will the pirate bring Haimey to a life on the outer edge of society.
This book is filled with politics and philosophy. The government, the Synarche, keeps everyone productive via a brain chip of sorts that helps them deal with reality. The pirates are FreeThinkers and want to overthrow the Synarche and give people freedom and choice. But are the guerilla tactics, assassinations, and enslavement the right way to go about it. These are just some of the things Haimey considers in long discussions with the pirate, as well as in long thoughts with herself. Haimey also goes off on love and relationships, including the great love of her life, which she may or may not be accurately recalling. The premises of many of Haimey’s ideas and discussions were often interesting, but it always ended up sounding like a term paper.
The characterization wasn’t bad. I felt like I really knew Haimey, the pirate, and Singer the AI. I liked some of the other characters as well. I just couldn’t suffer the lengths of these term paper descriptions and discussions. This book could easily have been cut nearly in half and still retained sufficient plot and character development to feel completed.
There is a sequel to this book. I have no intention of reading it. I already feel like I’ve read too much Elizabeth Bear, most recently Carnival and Ink and Steel. I think I’ve given most of her books three stars. Ink and Steel got four stars. This book gets two stars (out of five). It simply did not feel like it had any forward momentum. Whenever it did move forward, it was derailed by long bouts of tedious prose. I basically hated reading it from about the fiftieth page to the end. And life’s too short to read tedious books. I’m hoping the next few book club books aren’t nearly so bad.