Sunday, 21 August 2016

Restart: trilogy conclusions and failures

Having bowed out from the constant pressure to keep reading or watching SFF in order to feed this weekly blog, I have been relaxing by catching up with lots of detective stories for a change, both ancient and modern. However, I still feel the itch to comment on what SFF I've come across, so I've decided to try to post a summary once a month, starting now.

Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie 

The final volume of the author's multiple-award-winning trilogy, the first two (Ancillary Justice, and Ancillary Sword) having been previously reviewed here. The story continues directly from the second volume without any intro or recap, so it is better to read all three in fairly quick succession unless you are blessed with a better memory than mine. For more detailed information about the series, I refer you to my previous reviews.

This volume continues the high standard of the series and brings it to a satisfactory conclusion while still leaving the door slightly ajar for a follow-on series should the author so wish. To sum up; a good series well worth reading, but not as great as its reputation and awards might suggest. I found it rather too slow and deliberate in its pacing to be a real page-turner and the events in the story are already fading from my memory, but then I like some excitement in my SFF.

Honour's Knight and Heaven's Queen, by Rachel Bach 

These are the second and third of the Paradox trilogy, the sequel to Fortune's Pawn which I reviewed last month. They continue the tale directly – this trilogy is really one continuous story. The plot remains inventive and exciting, with a lot to commend it, but the sentimentality defines its audience. The second volume is better than the first in this respect, with only one overdone romantic scene, but the final book's fairytale ending wallows in feelgood, happily-ever-after emotion. A great series for those who enjoy a kick-ass heroine combined with a large dollop of girlish romance, disappointingly cloying for anyone else.

Tried and Failed

Three books I started recently but failed to complete:

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson (published 2015): I started this in view of the favourable reviews it has received, but managed to get no more than a quarter of the way through it before deciding that I simply wasn't engaged enough to want to carry on. I've found this with KSR before, in that I struggled through to the end of Red Mars and didn't bother with the two sequels. I'm not quite sure what the problem is, but his writing style seems rather flat and dull to me, with the narrator doing a lot of describing and explaining; there's never any feeling of excitement in getting back to the story. I just have to accept that KSR is one writer I'm never going to appreciate.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (published 2014): a few weeks after giving up on it, I had completely forgotten what this was about. However, some hasty re-reading reminded me that it is essentially a post-apocalyptic tale, although it starts with beginning of the disaster, caused by the global spread of a lethal disease. I don't much enjoy this kind of story so it has to be outstanding to gain my approval, but the author failed to draw me into it.

Starbridge by A.C.Crispin (published 1989):  Earth's first encounter with an alien race when two starships meet. I'm not sure what put me off this one, I think it was the precocious young heroine cosily establishing her own relationship with an alien. There was somehow too much self-satisfaction coming through. Like the Paradox trilogy, it seems to have been aimed at teenage girls.


Fred said...


I got through the first of the Leckie threesome. It was OK, but I didn't feel it necessary to go on.

I'm a great fan of KSR, so I'm biased here. I consider Aurora to be the best SF novel I've read this year. Of course, there's still four months to go, but that's where I've ranked it now. I've also read the RGB Mars trilogy twice so far and will go back again, some time soon.

Station Eleven was OK. I read it twice because one FTF group and one online group selected it.

I gave up on Starbridge about 1/2 way through. I had the same problem you did. It's aimed at the female YA audience and I don't fit the demographics. The adults were just too clueless to believe. I wondered how they managed to pilot those spaceships successfully before the teens came on board.

Anthony G Williams said...

My feeling about Red Mars was that the author had basically written a textbook about colonising and terraforming Mars and had then spun a rather thin tale around it with characters that I simply couldn't care about. It was just interesting enough for me to finish the first volume, but it was an effort.

Mudpuddle said...

i had the same experience with aurora; it was interesting but i just could'nt get into it for some reason; some of KSR's older work was great, like the one about the two guys climbing Mt. Everest... speaking of good series, tho, i would highly recommend Keith Laumer's Retief series: funny, exciting, and apropos...

Anthony G Williams said...

Yes, Laumer's Retief series are among the classics of SF, cheerful entertainment of a kind rare nowadays.