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Tuesday, 25 July 2017 09:44 pm[personal profile] eye_of_a_cat
 WE HAVE A HOUSE, there are keys and everything, and the last owner left us chocolates so I'm guessing it's ours to keep. Pictures coming at some point when I work out how to make Dreamwidth do pictures. Not actually living in house yet; move to come. 

This also means moving towns, from the city where I'm in now to a smaller town I don't know very well. According to one of my colleagues who lives there it's "the sort of town where people... don't move very often," which you can take a few ways, yes? Yeeeeeees. Anyway, it seems very nice and I'm sure I'll get used to it. Best thing I have learnt about it so far: while it has a lot of Important Scottish History things that happened in it over the years, it also will be the birthplace of Montgomery Scott of the USS Enterprise, and there's a commemorative plaque. 
Today I bought a house. (Or, sort of - I have given some lawyers a lot of money for a house, but I don't actually have a house yet, which seems like a flawed system to me but hey what do I know.) 

I never thought this would be a particularly important life goal. Having a mortgage seemed sort of... boring. Down-to-earth. Suburban. Dull. Not necessarily compatible with the kind of footloose-and-fancy-free life that I had dreamed of. But that was before I rented fifteen different places in fourteen years, including the place where I had to call the police on the terrifying landlords, the place where the floor spent a year slowly rotting away beneath my feet, the many many places furnished with eighth-hand furniture the landlord had (I assume?) lifted off a street somewhere, and of course the many many many times the landlord decided to sell the place or hike the rent up and I had to move, yet again. So at this point in my life: yes, please please please, give me a mortgage. I'll deal with the luxury of philosophical questions about conceding to the status quo once my housing situation isn't a constant source of grime and anxiety. 

(I also have some vaguer and gloomier thoughts about how the UK housing crisis is taking up so much psychological space in the minds of so many people - when you're always worried about losing your home, you will never have 100% of your mental energy to devote to other things. But I feel like this one isn't really my cause to speak for, given my relative advantage in being able to afford to buy somewhere in the end. Maybe more on that another time.)
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
The concluding episode in my Hugo reading marathon!  Huzzah!

The Craft Sequence, by Matt Gladstone, consists of five novels so far.  We get all of them in the Hugo Voter Pack, and, due to time constraints, I have read only the first one. 

By which I mean, I have read the third one, Three Parts Dead.

Read more... )

On reflection, I think my ballot goes Vorkosigan, Craft Sequence, Temeraire, October Daye, Rivers of London, The Expanse.  Temeraire might have been more fun than the Craft Sequence, but I think this was much cleverer. 

Here ends the Hugo reading for 2017!  I may read the zines for my own interest, but there's no way I'm going to have time to review them.  And it would be nice to read something for enjoyment, rather than critically and with the intent to compare it with everything else on the ballot.

17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)

The next Series in the Best Series category is The Expanse, by James Corey.  The Voter Pack contains an excerpt from Leviathan.

I'll be honest here; I haven't really given this one a fair crack.  One big reason for this is that for some reason the Epub version on my Kobo is missing two or three lines from the bottom of every second or third page, which makes it hard to read.   But even in between that, it's not really holding my interest.  So far, all the characters seem to be of a particular 'antihero' type - the hardened cop, the hardened ship captain whose career has stalled - that doesn't do a lot for me.  I don't really care about the story.  And every time I think that something slightly interesting might be happening, there are missing lines.  This is not the fault of the book, but I really can't keep reading like this.

So I've read three chapters, and I think I'll call it quits.  I don't think it would be going high on my ballot even if I read further, because everything else on the ballot so far had me hooked within a few pages and this one doesn't.  So I think I'll leave it off the ballot entirely, unless The Craft Sequence annoys me so much that I need to put it below No Award, in which case I'll put this in fifth place, to distinguish it from the actively offensive stuff.

Incidentally, regarding The Craft Sequence, the voter pack consists of the first five novels in the series.  I'm not going to be able to read five novels by Sunday, especially since we have to drive to a funeral in the La Trobe Valley on Saturday, which is going to eat our entire day.  So I think I'll just see how far I get by tomorrow evening (and try to finish the first book, at least), and review based on that.
 

17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
Last novel!  Hooray! And I liked this one quite a lot, which means that now I have a problem at the top of my ballot...

But let's get on with the book.

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers, is a very sweet, kindly sort of book.  It feels like an epilogue, and I believe it takes place after another book set in the same universe.  There is not, now I think about it, a lot of obvious conflict.  It still kept me reading until after 1am on a work night because I needed to know what happened to everyone.

The book tells two stories in parallel.  The first story centres around Lovelace / Sidra, a ship's artificial intelligence system who is now trapped in a synthetic human body.  And she does feel trapped by it - she no longer has unlimited memory and access to the Linkages, which seem to be a futuristic extrapolation of the world wide web.  Her narrative arc is partly about coming to terms with her situation and figuring out how people who are not AIs (humans or aliens) work, and partly about her remaking her situation to a point where she can be content with it and have a purpose that appeals to her. 

She is helped in this by Pepper, an engineer who was once a slave called Jane 23, and the second story is hers.  This story starts when Jane 23 is ten, and, almost accidentally, escapes the factory which has been her entire world (quite literally - she does not know what the sky is, and is alarmed by this gigantic 'room' without walls).  Running from feral dogs, Jane 23 is rescued by a stranded spaceship and its AI, Owl.  Owl takes her in, and... basically teaches her how to be human.  And, over time, how to repair the ship and get off this planet.  This may sound unlikely, but Jane has been working to sort and repair broken machinery for her entire life as a slave, so while she has few other skills, she is very, very good with engineering.  I must admit, while I liked Sidra a lot, and sympathised with her struggles, it was Jane's story that kept me up until 1am wondering if - and how -  she would be OK.

Note that Jane's story is fairly disturbing - the treatment of the child slaves is chilling (we never do find out what happens when they turn twelve, but I suspect they are killed at that point), and she spends years scavenging for metal and for food, and mostly killing and eating feral dogs.  Which is something you may have a visceral reaction to.  (I just tried replacing feral dogs with feral cats in that sentence and was completely horrified and grossed out, so, yeah.)

With half the story being about an AI raised by humans and the other half about a human raised by an AI, Chambers is clearly saying a few things about what makes us human, but I'm not entirely sure what those things are.  It's clear that humanity is not limited to humans; the AI, Owl, is clearly appalled by Jane 23's treatment, which, while it was at the hands of AIs called the Mothers, is clearly something that was decided and organised by the humans.  Compassion, empathy and friendship, are clearly important things, and things that AIs can share with humans and aliens.  Another important thread is the ability to lie, something that Sidra can't do at the start of the story due to programming limitations.  Once she is able to do so, it seemed to me that her relationships with humans and aliens changed for the better.  But it is clear that AIs have free will, at least to an extent.  Sidra can choose what she wants to do and how to spend her time, provided it does not go against one of her programming restrictions.

I don't know where to put this book on the ballot.  It was far and away the most enjoyable one to read of the novels in this category, but I don't think that it was as creative as Ninefox Gambit or The Obelisk Gate.  I still want to put it at the top of the list, because I want to encourage books that I enjoy reading.  But I'm not sure if it ought to be first or second.  Then again, I suspect a LOT of people will put Ninefox Gambit first (I'm expecting that one to win, actually), so maybe it doesn't need my vote?  I shall have to ponder this.

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