Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Nanoreviews: A Desolation Called Peace, Fairhaven Rising, We Are Satellites

Martine, Arkady. A Desolation Called Peace [Tor]

Adri has already written about A Desolation Called Peace at greater length and with greater insight, but this is a novel which deserves additional attention because, frankly, it lives up to all of the hype and anticipation following Arkady Martine's stellar and Hugo Award winning debut, A Memory Called Empire.

This is a first contact novel, though in a wildly explosive manner. Like A Memory Called Empire, politics are at the forefront. Watching Nine Hibiscus navigate military politics is a treat, but my favorite bits of the novel are following Eight Antidote, the eleven year old and "90% clone" of the former emperor as he gains experience and involves himself into politics while still trying to learn and grow. It is utterly charming and precocious and uncanny and every moment of Eight Antidote's page time is perfect. As is so much of this novel. Anyone who loved the first novel will love A Desolation Called Peace. The Teixcalaan empire is larger in this novel, the scope of their reach is expansive and the empire is no longer just one capital city / planet. This is such a cool novel. A Desolation Called Peace is can't miss science fiction.
Score: 9/10

Modesitt, Jr, L.E. Fairhaven Rising [Tor]

It seems weird to root for the success of Fairhaven. In some ways, the white mages of Fairhaven have long been the Big Bad of the Recluce series. Not exclusively, of course - but for novels set on the continent of Candar, more often that not and especially very early in the series where Modesitt was setting how the world works - Fairhaven had the aura of opposition. Sometime in the previous novel, The Mage-Fire War I realized that the town of Haven that Beltur and company were set to restore and defend might actually become Fairhaven and that this was not the origin story I might have expected.

Fairhaven Rising is set sixteen years later, focused on Taelya, a white mage and road guard / trooper for Fairhaven. As is customary for one of Modesitt's novels, people who just want to live at peace and do things their own way are never left alone and that is the case with Fairhaven as they are pressed into a war they want no part of but are not strong enough yet to prevent. 

Fairhaven Rising hits all of the familiar beats of a Modesitt novel, from the gradual build of a less tested mage into a mighty warrior to the quiet moments of cooking and learning magery to escalating battle. There are long moments of travel and "nothing" occuring - but it is those quiet moments of seeming nothing where the novel lives and shines (though the battles aren't to be sniffed at). It has been absolutely delightful to, indeed, see the rise of Fairhaven and while Modesitt has spent more time in this particular era than any other in the series, I do hope to see at least one more novel with Taelya leading Fairhaven farther into the future.
Score: 7/10

Pinsker, Sarah. We Are Satellites [Berkley]

After two novels and slew of stories, Sarah Pinsker has proven herself to be one of the preeminent science fiction writers working today. No matter the story, Pinsker tells it with thoughtful intelligence and grace. We Are Satellites is Pinsker's second novel and it lives up to her legacy of excellence.

We Are Satellites looks at the near future of technology, with an implant designed to improve the focus and an ability to functionally multitask. It's such a boon to those who receive the implant, truly transformative except, no technology is perfect and there are always those left behind. Sarah Pinsker examines the social and personal consequences of such a transformative technology and how that technology is used by governments and countries. The scale of We Are Satellites is tight and personal to one particular family - and all of those dynamics are explored, but that family is used to widen the scope for so many permutations for how that technology can work and go wrong. 

We Are Satellites is really good, y'all.
Score: 8/10

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 4x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. He / Him.