I was surprised to hear that Maria V. Snyder was writing science fiction. I've read Snyder's Study novels which begin with Poison Study and are exciting fantasy with compelling, memorable characters and great world building.
When I saw Ashley's review of the third book in Snyder's Sentinels of the Galaxy series, I barely skimmed it because I wanted to begin with the first book. Snyder and YA science fiction--a combination I didn't want to miss.
In Navigating the Stars, Seventeen-year-old Lyra has had a disjointed childhood as her archaeologist parents have moved from planet to planet investigating the secrets behind the Terra Cotta Warriors found on different planets throughout the galaxy.
The characters are likable, and the relationship between Lyra and her parents is believable. Lyra resents the moves that uproot her life, but the parental relationship is strong and supportive.
The world-building is, for the most part, limited to the interactions of the characters on the base itself, with some development of the archaeological dig site. The planet is a desert with sandstorms that can interrupt the work, but doesn't require further detail.
The science takes in the conundrum of space dilation--and the difficulty of adjusting to the phenomenon of a few months in space travel for a crew and passengers becomes decades for those on the planet they just left. Snyder invented the Q-net to make communications possible, and Lyra is a talented hacker, who "worms" her way through the Q-net with skill and often impactful results.
Navigating the Stars differs from Snyder's other novels, aimed as it is toward a YA audience, but it was a fun and exciting experience. Could have done without some of the YA romance, but I can't wait to get to book two!
---From description: Decimated by plague, the human population is now a minority. Robots—complex AIs almost indistinguishable from humans—are the ruling majority. Nine months ago, in a controversial move, the robot government opened a series of preserves, designated areas where humans can choose to live without robot interference. Now the preserves face their first challenge: someone has been murdered
An intriguing concept that, for me, was not fully realized. The Preserve is a dystopian murder mystery with many elements of contemporary problems transformed by shifting the power from human to AI. It is interesting that the author refers to "robots" rather than AI, and that the most likable character is Kir, the robot partner of the Preserve police chief Jesse Laughton.
Because the robots are so human in their character flaws of prejudice and addiction, it is difficult to think of them as "not human."
Although an interesting police procedural, perhaps the most provocative aspect for me is...what is left out. The book jumps into a situation with no background or history. A little historical explanation would have been nice, if not at the beginning, at least at some point.
Kir's mechanical body blends with humans, and his brain has all of the complex, moral, and empathetic qualities we would hope for (and are often missing from) genuine humans. The only real difference between humans and AI, as presented in the novel, is that their bodies don't bleed. The movements and abilities are the same and function physically as efficiently as humans. Their "brains" also function much as in humans--with good or bad opinions and intentions.
I had all kinds of questions as I read, more questions than answers. Sometimes, however, raising questions is enough to make a book worthwhile.
Dystopian/Police Procedural. Nov. 3, 2020. Print length: 256 pages.