The Stars Are Legion: Half Space Opera, Half Surgery

the-stars-are-legion-final-coverSeriously though. This one’s a bit . . . gooey.

Remember Osmosis Jones? This book’s setting is like that, except turned up to eleven and not for kids. Basically, most of our story takes place inside a big a planet that is living and breathing just like we are. Instead of being made of rock, water, and precious metals, this planet is made of skin, veins, teeth, flesh and tentacles. Yea, tentacles.

There are many of these planets (hence ‘Legion’) and the protagonists must travel to a few (really where the space opera part comes in) and explore the depths of another. If you’re bothered by words like ‘placenta’ and ‘afterbirth’ showing up too many times on a page, then you may want to pass this one by.

Indeed the setting is probably the biggest hurdle to enjoying this story. However, after a while, you kind of get desensitized to it. After a longer while you realize just how critical these pieces are to the larger story (and messaging) Hurley is trying to create.

I suspect many will find The Stars Are Legion Hugo worthy and indeed it should probably get nominated (already found one review talking awards). I’ve been trying to relearn and improve my knowledge of the more technical parts of writing fiction. Hurley shows herself to be a master of these technical aspects. A great opening sentence (Simply: “I remember throwing away a child” Like who doesn’t want to read more after that?), sparse but meaningful use of onomatopoeia, and good use of POV to slowly reveal pertinent information for the reader (you can tell what I’ve been studying this week haha).

It’s setting, and use of POV, seem reminiscent of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, which I loved, and the cast of only female characters (there is obviously a statement about gender happening here) certainly puts the book in conversation with Leckie’s book. However, I’m unsure if it is as effective.

In all, I enjoyed reading this book very much. Ken Liu’s cover endorsement of “mind-bending” is absolutely true and I feel the book is worth picking up just to explore the setting alone. It certainly shocks and there is a good deal of awe. The fact that we get an intricate story is even better. If there is a sequel, I hope it’s revealed what some of these ‘terrible things’ are that the protagonists keep thinking back on although it is implied that they might only look towards the future.  We will see.

That’s all for now folks. Happy surgery!

Ancillary Justice: Scandalously Good

 

Welp. Looks like I’m not done writing things after all. Actually feels kind of good. I’ve emerged from hiatus because I’ve been following the scandal of the Hugo awards. I hadn’t been reading a lot of SFF recently (been mostly taken with old spy novels) because I felt a little disillusioned with the genre. It’s already had so many scandals. But I’m not going to talk anymore about scandals.

Cover!

Cover!

I want to talk about how refreshing it was to read Ancillary Justice.

I suppose we can thank the scandal for getting this one on my radar. Because of the scandal, I looked it up and saw it’s been getting a lot of attention and winning a lot of other awards. I tried to look at some of the reviews but that experience can mostly be described with the following acronym:

TLDR

Finally, we can thank my local book store for not carrying every installment of WoT (I was determined to get back on that train). So, standing there in the book store, about half an hour early for work but with nothing to read, I thought “Fuck it. Let’s see why everyone’s so excited about this.”

Turns out, everyone is so excited about Ancillary Justice because it’s really, really good. And super confusing. But mostly good!

Basically, Ann Leckie was out sick the day they went over pronouns in elementary school — or rather Breq, the main character, was sick that day — and so every single one is a she, even when the character speaking, being spoken to, or being spoken of, is not a she.

Also, Leckie decided: “Stories don’t start at the beginning and move straight through until the end. They start at the beginning and the middle at the same time. And then they race to see who can get to the end quicker. But they also perfectly complement one another so that comprehension of what is actually going on can only happen with both.”

Sometimes you just got to look fancy while you're reading.

Sometimes you just got to look fancy while you’re reading.

And I’m convinced that this story could not have been told any other way. I wish I could have been there the moment she decided that’s how she was going to do it. I imagine she couldn’t wipe the smile from her face. I imagine that anyone standing around was like “Are you OK?” And she was like “Oh I’m way better than OK. I’m amazing.”

Ok, well maybe that was a bit much. But what’s important here is that Leckie really creates something unique in Ancillary Justice. And it’s not just that she plays with form (and apparently grammar), Breq’s mission and motivations are all incredibly interesting in their own right. Every character displays an uncommon amount of complexity, as does the vast universe they operate in. But Leckie doesn’t beat us over the head with that complexity. It’s simply there.

Needless to say, I’m VERY excited to check out Ancillary Sword.