The Waiting Stars — Aliette de Bodard

You can find this free to read at Aliette’s website.

Another Nebula, Locus and Hugo finalist from Aliette, and having just finished reading it one can see why it was a finalist: very good indeed.

But quickly back to our previous two books, The Weight of a Blessing and Memorials, where i was utterly confused as to what any of it had to do with the Xuya universe, well, in this story they kind of join up a bit.   The Galactics from our previous two books have been shooting up/down the Vietnamese mindships and taking them away and putting them in a grave yard in space, and this is the story of the family of one of those mindships going to reclaim their relative.   The book begins with a lot of unknowns for a lot of people: memories missing, ships missing, shipminds damaged or dead, places in the galaxy that the Vietnamese aren’t allowed because they’re Galactic territory, Galactic territory that’s only filled with shot up/down damaged/dead Vietnamese mindships.

As the story goes on, things reveal themselves and gain focus until everyone in the story and you, the reader, realises the truth.

Like those previous two books which were great to read — in and of themselves — this is likewise.   But — and it’s a big fat BUT — who are these Galactics?   Where did these Galactics come from?   What’s their place in all of this story?   Why are they so against the mindships and the Vietnamese?   Me thinks there are some books that need writing explaining this.   Or maybe things will be revealed as we read the last few books of Xuya?

That all said, we’re now off to read A Slow Unfurling of Truth.

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Memorials — Aliette de Bodard

I can’t find Memorials available any where else so you’ll just have to pop over to Amazon and buy the magazine to get this one.   It’s a very reasonable price and you get quite a bit of other stuff to read as well.

Just like The Weight of a Blessing before it, i couldn’t figure out any connection between this and the rest of the Xuya stories we’ve been reading up to now.   But, that’s not to say this isn’t worth reading, it is a rather good read in itself.

However, i think the problem lies in that these two stories could have been much better presented as one longer story but with a context to it all, some background, stage setting, etc..   I really feel that if Aliette were to do this then it would make a great stand alone novel that would not need to be shoved in, bizarrely, as part of the Xuya stories.

One of the best things about Memorials for me was the perpetuates in V-space, which reminded me of All the Retros at the New Cotton Club by DeAnna Knippling.   As i said in my review of that, i would have loved to have more of the New Cotton Club and its retros, and likewise, with Memorials i’d really like to read more stories from the Memorial and it’s perpetuate characters, and maybe similar places hosting perpetuates.

So, after all is read and said, The Weight of a Blessing and Memorials ended up as quite an enjoyable read once i figured out what was actually happening and that they really don’t have any connection to Xuya and trying to find one while reading these just messes things up.   So read them as a standalone pair and re-read The Weight of a Blessing again, after Memorials, and you should enjoy yourself.

And now, The Waiting Stars.

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The Weight of a Blessing — Aliette de Bodard

This one had me completely lost.

Without any explanation of where we are or how we got here, we suddenly find this squabble between the Rong, the Vermilion Seal, and the Galactics — whoever they all are — all played out with Halls of the Dead and V-Space and some old battle between continents and a memorial being thrown into the mix.   I have no idea how this fits into the Universe of Xuya.   It’s all a bit of a confusing ramble me thinks.

But, anyway, i worked my way through this story taking it at face value but not really understanding any of it because there’s no real context to understand it in; then i moved onto Memorials, which is the next book in the Xuya series, which is also in the same context as this one and slowly things began to make a bit more sense.

After i finished Memorials i came back to The Weight of a Blessing and re-read it and it finally made a lot more sense.

So a part of me says that this should be after Memorials, but i don’t think the story’s timeline would fit that way around and i also think it would then leave Memorials without a context and then you’d have to come back to Memorials and re-read that after this — i know, confusing, right?

And having read both and re-read The Weight of a Blessing and finally made sense of it all, i still don’t understand where it actually fits into Xuya.

But you can read it for free over at Clarkesworld.

Ho hum.   As i say, next up is Memorials.

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The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile — Aliette de Bodard

A short little story with the war between the Empire and the rebels hotting up while also giving us a whole new mindship/human interaction thing that we haven’t encountered before.

It feels like this is just a step between On a Red Station, Drifting and where ever it is we’re going next: an inbetweeny setting us up for some more interesting things to come.

I know, it’s not much of a review, i agree, an inbetweeny too.

You can read it over at Subterranean Press.

And next we will be going to: The Weight of a Blessing.

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On a Red Station, Drifting — Aliette de Bodard

More from “The Universe of Xuya”.   This one comes with some high credentials as it was on the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2012, and also a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards for Best Novella — which is nothing to be sniffed at for all you weirdos who claim to prefer the smell of real books.

You can buy your very own copy over at Amazon.

So, in sticking with our theme of Vietnamese family culture and ties, and mindships, and all that; we now find ourselves on one of the big space stations that is, like a mindship, run, maintained and controlled by one of these shipminds.

Just like the shipminds, the station’s minds are also born to humans and families and it is those families that ultimately get to control the stations.   And so along with a good story about this station’s mind heading for a total break down and desperately needing fixing, we also have a good story about the family from which that shipmind was born — all while there’s a rebellion/war going on and mixed into the story.

So yeah, plenty going on, and plenty to keep all us fans of Xuya happy and content.

Next up: The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile.

Aliette’s Page

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Immersion — Aliette de Bodard

Another short from “The Universe of Xuya”.

One of the really good things about these huge sci-fi universes is that there’s always a space somewhere to tell a story about anything you want to.   Immersion is a story that very much warns humanity of its folly with modern technology and how we use it to hide the truth of our selves from others while also, at the same time, allowing it to filter out the truth of others from ourselves.   Facebook, and it’s other entities, are very much the beginning of the immersion technology discussed in this story: the way people have created their on-line personas that they window dress to impress others for a few more likes, covering up the truth about their shitty little dull lives while eagerly consuming an equally fictional illusion of the reality of other people’s lives.

It’s all lies, all bullshit, all an illusion!!!

How far down this rabbit hole do people go?   How lost in the addiction?   At what point does it end?   How many suicides?   How much depression?   How deep the anxiety?   When will people pull the plug and get back to living their real lives and is that even possible any more with the internet being so pervasive?   People are now having their fridges and other appliances hooked up to wifi and the internet, FFS — Oooh, look at all the nice food in my fridge, gloat, gloat, gloat, please hit that like button please, please, please!!!

Or maybe i’m just over-thinking everything too much while i’m under house arrest.

Ho hum.   One day we will be free.   Sadly, it will most probably be the day we die.

And thus endeth my cheerful review.

Seriously though, it’s a good story and one well worth reading for a lot of people.

Next up, On a Red Station, Drifting.

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Scattered Along the River of Heaven — Aliette de Bodard

Free to read over at Clarkesworld.

This story reminds me of Butterfly, Falling at Dawn in the way people and cultures change and shift, with those who fight to maintain things, those who fight to rid things, those who adopt the new and those who refuse to.   But unlike Butterfly, Falling at Dawn where we had an external power come to support those who wanted change within their own society, to free themselves from the tyranny of their own people; in Scattered Along the River of Heaven we have a post conflict situation where one society has freed itself violently from the slavery and tyranny imposed upon it by an external society.

Likewise, within that society there were slaves who wanted to maintain the status quo, as they had been granted privileged positions amongst the slaves: the masters deliberately creating a tier system ensuring that the privileged slaves would keep the under-privileged slaves in place by overseeing, snitching, reporting, etc..   However, once their enslavers had been overthrown these privileged slaves were either killed or exiled along with their masters, hated and despised by those of their own people that they kept downtrodden for their own comfort and importance.

It’s also another one of those books by Aliette where a second reading is a must: at least it was for me.   It’s like i just couldn’t see the overall picture until the last 10th or so of the story, where things become clear and fall into place, and then i was left hanging, needing to go back and read it all again with a much clearer idea of what it was i was reading.   I think there’s some important information that is missing from the beginning that you don’t find until the end, but, doesn’t matter.   Or maybe it’s like one of those poems that you have to keep going back to hoping to glean a little more meaning each time.

But yeah, good book, plenty to think about culturally and things.

Next up, Immersion.

Aliette’s Page

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The Citadel of Weeping Pearls — Aliette de Bodard

Very much in keeping with the rest of the Xuya books and i absolutely recommend reading them before diving into this deep space.

A lot longer than the previous short stories and novellas that we’ve so far been used to: as such, this one is available as a real book that you can buy over at Amazon.

For those reading my previous review on Pearl, you’ll now know how i feel about pricing and this is no different to that.   At the time of writing this the brand new paperback is £7.75 while the Kindle version is £7.34.   And Amazon will deliver the paperback for free if you buy something else from them for £2.25 to make the total £10.00.

However, i’m not going to get back into my rant on the pricing of a teeny tiny data file compared to a forest of processed trees and environmental damages of such, you can read all about that at Pearl.   Like that, it’s up to you if you are willing to pay that or not, or you can simply get a copy elsewhere, like get your local library to buy the paperback and then a thousand people can read it for free.   Or you can buy the paperback with free delivery and then sell it on ebay to make some money back, or share it with a few friends, or give it to a charity shop.   At the end of the day, it’s up to you, but ebooks aren’t going to be priced fairly for what they are if people — you the reader — keep paying silly prices for them.   It’s utterly ridiculous to be charging every Kindle user similar prices for a single use, data protected copy while the paperback can be bought once and shared and read by dozens of people for years and years.

So, onto the content: great story, this time we’re going into the deep spaces within the deep spaces.   Yeah, deep spaces squared get seriously bizarre.   Lots of court intrigue and military invasion matters and the normal everyday life things as well.

Once again, super great writing from Aliette that keeps your attention from beginning to end.   Shame about the ebook pricing.

And now let’s go get Scattered Along the River of Heaven.

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Walden — Henry David Thoreau

After reading Into the Wild, where this book gets a fair bit of mentioning, one just had to see what all the fuss was about.

It certainly starts off incredibly well with the first 25% of the book — being mostly one chapter titled, “Economy” — explaining the ins and outs of what leads Thoreau to Walden Pond and away from a normal life and the cost of doing so.   And it is very clear in this first quarter that Thoreau is a very capable writer who can get straight to the heart of the matter and keep the reader’s attention.

But then we begin the second chapter, “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”, and thus the tedium begins: word after word of pointless, boring tedium.   Was it so utterly dull for him sitting by the pond, day after day after day with no one to talk to, that he just sat and wrote words for hour upon hour and simply spewed them forth upon pages enough to make up a reasonable amount to call it a book in order to sell it so he didn’t have to get a real job?

I just found myself reading paragraph after paragraph with a totally numbed out mind, noticing only a few words of interest here and there but mostly it’s just babble: babble, babble, babble, babble, blah, blah, blah.   I tried, i really did, but i just cannot see why people so rave about this book.

Maybe chapter 3 onwards is back to the standard of chapter 1, but i simply could not get through chapter 2.

So, inevitably, it got …


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Revolution — William Manners

As a lifelong cyclist who has never owned a car i was so looking forward to reading this and i wasn’t disappointed.

Overall, simply an excellently researched book on the birth of cycling in the UK, especially focusing on the boom years of the 1890’s.

And as much as this should be in every cyclist’s book collection, it should also be in every feminist’s book collection.   The history of the bicycle would not be complete without it being placed, centre stage, in those early years of women’s freedom and suffrage.

All hail the humble bicycle: a true vehicle of freedom and the most efficient form of transport ever invented.   Nothing will propel you for so little watts per mile as a well manufactured and maintained bicycle can.   It has well and truly stood the test of time.

As H.G. Wells once remarked: Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.

Long live the bicycle.

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