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366 pages, Hardcover
First published February 12, 2019
Inevitable collisions and conflicts have no choice but to arise out of all the tensions, right?
“Part of how they make you obey is by making obedience seem peaceful, while resistance is violent. But really, either choice is about violence, one way or another.”There are political machinations, and fight for survival, and amazing alien discoveries, and drama and betrayal and lust for power. All the ingredients¹ for a great SF novel are here, just waiting to produce an instant classic.
¹ But sadly just having the right ingredients does not guarantee a decent result. It’s like me trying to bake a cake - no matter how many great ingredients I have, the result is always a half-burnt semi-edible rock cake — great as a defense weapon, bad as food.
This novel is like that: despite the great ideas, it really struggles with what it’s trying to be.
Perhaps because of the pacing issues (or maybe because of the protagonists stupidity — in Sophie’s case, that’s because mooning over Bianca leaves her brain no room for anything else) the development of the story and characters suffers quite a bit. For instance, most of Xiosphant oppressiveness is told, not shown, and because of that it’s not believable. Sophie’s happens quickly and without a glitch — and just feels much too easy and plot-convenient, as though the plot outline required it to happen and so it was going to happen almost off page to keep the story going. Bianca’s is also off page, mentioned in a throw-away paragraph, with nothing making sense —
“And something inside me […] opens up at the sound of Bianca’s voice: like clear water flowing down the side of one of those marble fountains, in just the right amount of partial sunlight, back in Argelo. I almost don’t care that she’s telling me about murdering so many people.”97% in, she finally comes to the realization that I would have been screaming at her about half a book earlier if I still could even pretended to care: “I’ve been so stupid. The Gelet are counting on my help, but I can’t stop throwing away my life for Bianca. It’s all I ever do.”