#FridayReads 2021-07-30 ‘On A Red Station, Drifting’, ‘A Memory Of Empire’ and ‘The Space Between Worlds’

I’m making this week a Science Fiction week. Two of the books are from my ‘A Science Fiction Summer‘ reading challenge and one is a novella I’ve been meaning to get to for awhile.

On the surface, these a three very different flavours of science fiction. What unites them is that they’re all written by smart, highly educated women, they’ve all won prestigious prizes, they’re all strong on storytelling and they all invite the reader to reconsider how our world works.

I’m looking forward to being immersed in new worlds and being given the opportunity to consider what they mean for mine..

‘On A Red Station, Drifting’ by Aliette de Bodard (2012)

‘On A Red Station, Drifting’ is only 106 pages long but I’m expecting it to pack a punch. In May, I read Aliette De Bodard’s 2018 novella, ‘The Tea Master And The Detective’ and was deeply impressed by how much world-building, character development and plot Aliette De Bodard delivered.

Both books are part of series of five books in the Universe of Xuya series which the publishers describe as a:

‘series of novellas and short stories set in a timeline where Asia became dominant, and where the space age has Confucian galactic empires of Vietnamese and Chinese inspiration: scholars administer planets, and sentient spaceships are part of familial lineages.’

I like both the Asian flavour of this (I don’t think the publishers have noticed, but Asia is already dominant) and the concept of sentient spaceships.

‘On A Red Station, Drifting’ is the first book in the series. I’m hoping that it will be another gem and will make me keen to read the rest of the series.

‘A Memory Called Empire’ by Arkady Martine (2019)

Arkady Martine is a new author for me but one I’ve been meaning to read for a couple of years now. I bought the audiobook version of ‘A Memory Called Empire’ when it came out in 2019. When it won the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novel, I thought, ‘Hey, I have that in my TBR. Great.’ Then I got distracted and now the second novel is out and every review I’ve read tells me that I’m missing out by not getting my head into the complexities and perplexities of the Teixcalaanli Empire.

So, this is me, finally catching up with what I hope is an excellent Space Opera with some meaty ideas about Empires and power and struggle behind it.

‘The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (2020)

I’m a sucker for Multiverse books. The idea that each decision by each person, or perhaps each action by anything animate, may trigger another reality amongst an infinite number of realities is one of those things, like how old the planet really is or how big the universe is or how inevitable death is, that i know but have to forget about on a regular basis in order to be able to live my life.

So, in a way, Multiverse books aren’t an escape from reality but a safe approach to it.

The thing is, it’s very easy for this kind of story to fail. If you’ve ever seen DC comics’ attempt at Multiverse stories, especially the TV versions, you’ll know what I mean. They flip between gross over-simplification and a scale so large that it’s hard to care about any character. You reach an ‘If this Superman dies, there’ll still be an infinite number of others alive so what’s the big deal?’ attitude that takes all the fun out of things.

I’m hoping that Micaiah Johnson will keep the focus on a person I can care about while setting out a challenging puzzle about the nature of identity and individuality in a Multiverse where everything that can happen is happening.

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