RogerBW's Blog

Chill, Elizabeth Bear 06 September 2022

2009 SF, middle volume of its trilogy. The colonisation ship has been restored, and the voyage can continue! Only not.

All right, I give up: my reaction to Bear's books is just contrary. This is a middle volume, and while I enjoyed the first one I didn't love it. But this, although the enthusiastic fans of Dust didn't rate it as highly as that one, was much more what I wanted to read.

I think in part that may be because I found the ending of the first quite unsatisfying: yes, this is sorted out, but what about that? Many series end volumes before the last with something like a conclusion, and then have to un-do it all again at the start of the next book; this was starting from less of a high point and got straight on with continuing the story.

There are two main narratives, as two of the ship's new ruling class (having that revolutionary idea that the survival of the ship is more important than personal victory) go to chase the last survivor of the last conflict, who seems to be building up resources to kick it all off again, and like the bulk of the last book these are mostly picaresque at first. But this time the questers have doubts about themselves and about their goal, and they come over as altogether more interesting than Perceval last time – and their journeys continue into immediate plot relevance rather than everyone coming home again to do the important bit. (All right, the pair do blend together a bit for me; they're both tortured heroes with shady pasts, after all, and their voices don't distinguish them.) Remaining narratives deal with the Captain having to come to terms with loss; and the new Chief Engineer getting on with the actual science fiction part while the men are off questing. (Like, where's the ship going, anyway?)

Much more enjoyable to me than Dust, and I'm glad I continued.

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Previous in series: Dust | Series: Jacob's Ladder | Next in series: Grail

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