Friday, September 9, 2016

Space Cowgirls

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28962452-revenger
Revenger, Alastair Reynolds
This book has great blurbage.  It's very accurate and doesn't promise to read-alike things it shares little with (Quarantine, *cough cough*).  Here's one of the publicity paragraphs:
Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future – a tale of space pirates, buried treasure and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism … and of vengeance …

This is perfect.  It's honest.  It also doesn't focus on a sensationalised side-story in an attempt to trick you into reading the book only to find there is another larger story you weren't prepared for; this sells the crux of the book.  And the crux is good.

Furthermore...
  • There's plenty happening.  The initial set-up, time until plot action and pacing thereafter are all good.  There isn't a lot of waiting around, there's great action.  
  • The only problem is: I don't care a great deal about the characters.  I wish I could find another way to say it, but I just don't buy into the female voice of the protag.  This has happened before -- when I've read female protag's written by male authors.  I guess gender matters for me here.  Or maybe I've just encountered a few male authors who've failed to convince me of the authenticity of their voice, but apparently I do believe there is something unique to a teenage girl's voice that I didn't find in Reynolds' writing.  I didn't like Fura.  Even at the end, I wasn't a big fan.  I kept reading because I liked the world and the action.  There are a lot of things she does and says I cannot understand and cannot reconcile with any female heroine I have ever known or read.  It isn't until Part 2 (there are four parts) that I gained a little respect for her.  She became more interesting.  She was still fairly unlikable and unconvincing.  When she and her sister are first in peril, I didn't care about them yet.  I think this was a mistake.  With all of that sad, it was lovely to have so many strong female characters!
  • The book generally also started to really pick up at Part 2.  It's where the comparisons to Firefly are justified.  Those are good comparisons to have.  This is about a third of the way in, so Revenger doesn't have the solid immediate hook of some other YA novels.  But there's enough laid out in the start to suggest good things are coming.
  • Having recently read Briggs, it was hard to read Reynolds' dialogue.  I didn't like it.  I groaned more than once thinking, "Weak line."  The neologisms were also juvenile.  They reminded me of R.S. Lewis' in Stitching Snow, which also peeved me.
  • The descriptive writing can be very good.
  • The hard sci fi is delicious.   The world is great.  In addition to reminding me of Firefly, I found some moments reminding me of (beloved) Cinder and Blade Runner.  Not character strengths however, plot points.  If only Fura was more like Cinder!  The ship descriptions, crew roles, wider economy and long history are all golden.
  • There is zero romance.  I think that's part of why I read this so slow.  A YA book without romance (or even a passing observation about attraction) seems really odd to me; teenage characters that don't ever think about that?  Not even a little?  Okay...  It doesn't need to be a driving force in the narrative, but I would have thought a teenage character would at least have a thought about someone (even if he/she pushed the thought aside) at some point.  None of the teenagers do. 
  • It's clean in respect to language and sensuality, but there is blood and violence (and some disturbing imagery).
  • I didn't dig the speciality fonts.  
Yes, I think you'll love this one, Dad.   Fans of coming-of-age quests in space (who think it's no loss that there's no romance), look no further!  This is a fun world-build.

Review copy received from Hachette.
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