I tried to give this book a fair shake, I really did. Regardless of what there is to say about the Hugo Awards politics this year, this novel did actually make it onto the ballot, and I wanted to make an effort to try to read it fairly despite those ongoing politics.
But by the time I made it to Chapter 24, about nineteen percent through on the ebook, I’d just run into too many things that unfortunately just did not work for me as a reader.
The two biggest issues I had were extremely short chapter lengths, coupled with a high number of point-of-view characters in plot threads that had no immediate connection to one another. The narrative jumped around between these points of view with scarcely any time to show depth of characterization, and so I was fairly overwhelmed with a barrage of characters that had no time to gain my sympathies.
Sadly, the one plot thread that returned enough times to get me more detail actively put me off. Garrison Reeves of the Roamers has fled the lava mining colony he was working for, stealing a spacecraft and taking his ten-year-old son with him. Much is made over how awful Garrison’s wife Elisa is, and how she’s put her career ahead of her family and considers herself having been delusional to think she could have a relationship with Garrison. When I stopped reading, she’d just inadvertently triggered the explosion of an alien creature that left her with the distinct possibility that Garrison’s ship might have been destroyed–and she shows no feeling for Garrison at all, just some fear that her son might be dead. But then, the narrative doesn’t exactly show her overflowing with maternal love for said son, either.
(And I found the whole one-note “raging bitchqueen who puts her career ahead of her family” archetype for Elisa grating, in general.)
Plus, Anderson has a way of ending sentences in ellipses for no particular apparent reason–often in paragraphs of hastily summarized backstory for whatever new character got introduced in the chapter I’d reached, and often when describing a character’s opinion about whatever issue they were presently dealing with. Once or twice was fine, but every other chapter made it a stylistic quirk way too obvious too ignore.
By the time I bailed some action had finally started ramping up, and I will allow that by then, Anderson’s particular style of writing was suited to those scenes and made them interesting. But it was too little too late, and I had not managed to become invested enough in any of the characters I’d met so far to care when things started exploding.
Since I did not actually finish this book it would not be fair of me to actually rate it, but I’m noting my commentary here and on my blog regardless, and will be moving on to reading the next of the Hugo nominees.