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Friday, November 20, 2020

Navigating the Stars by Maria V. Snyder and The Preserve by Ariel S. Winte

 

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!

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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.  

NetGalley/Atria Books

Dystopian/Police Procedural.  Nov. 3, 2020.  Print length:  256 pages.

12 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed Navigating the Stars. I've yet to read a Maria V. Snyder book that I didn't love. She's one of my faves. :)

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    1. I did! She did a nice job of changing genres!

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  2. Both of these sound interesting. I'm always up for a good dystopian novel and this one sounds like it's worth a look even though you were somewhat disappointed in it. It reminds me a little bit of the Ben Winters "Last Policeman" series in which a cop keeps investigating murders right up until the world ends in a cosmically spectacular way. Everyone knows the end is inevitable, and how they react is what makes it such a good series. It's only three books long, unfortunately.

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    1. The topic of artificial intelligence is one that certainly deserves the attention it receives in fiction. So often, we have no idea of the consequences of scientific discoveries and advancements. I never read the Last Policeman series, and all I've ever read about it has been so positive. Strange, I never really even considered it.

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  3. The Preserve has a very interesting and refreshing concept. I don't think I've come across books with such theme combines with police procedural so it definitely has my attention. :)

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    1. The Preserve does have an interesting concept. From what I've read in genuine scientific terms, the idea of a truly "human" artificial intelligence is a long way in the future, if ever. But the algorithms that make approximate equations of human judgment are already amazing.

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  4. Navigating the Stars is one I definitely want to read. And I'm intrigued by The Preserve, but I think the lack of any background or history for how they got to where they are is a little disappointing. I might still have to try it. :)

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    1. I enjoyed both of them, although I think The Preserve should have had some background. Laughton and Kir had been partners in Baltimore at a time before the Preserve was established, just 9 months previously, but that period of humans living as a minority among robots is barely mentioned. Nevertheless, The Preserve is interesting.

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  5. Ashley's review of Navigating Stars turned me onto it too, and so I picked up the first two books in the series. I'm looking forward to reading them. Preserve sounds interesting. I may have to check that one out. I see Sam mentioned The Last Policeman trilogy. I do recommend the books if you get the chance.

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    1. I have the second book as well, but I've suddenly found myself with quite a few books--so I'm saving it for a little while. :)

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  6. Navigating the Stars sounds so good and it sounds like a successful something-different fr Maria!

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    1. It was good and yes, I like that Snyder can have fun and switch genres and audience. :)

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