The Latest in Science Fiction and Fantasy

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The Latest in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Postby Williamhawk » Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:52 pm

Ann Leckie’s latest space romp, PROVENANCE (Orbit, $26), isn’t really a space opera in the same way as the award-winning Imperial Radch trilogy that made her famous. It might be tempting, therefore, to insist that comparisons are unfair. Yet they’re also unavoidable — largely because, even though “Provenance” centers on non-Radchaai societies, it is effectively a sequel. Now that a treaty has been established between the empire and the enigmatic, violent, technologically superior Presger, countless planets breathe easier. But the peace will last only so long as the “civilized” races of the universe actually act civilized.

This premise makes the book a perfect follow-up to the trilogy, because it is effectively a comedy of manners. The story focuses on Ingray Aughskold, a young woman adopted into a family of some importance on the planet Hwae. Ingray has a scheme to earn favor with her mother by breaking a notorious criminal out of prison — a scheme that, fortunately for her, does not go completely cockeyed. In the trilogy, there was a running subplot surrounding the diplomacy of tea, which served as a symbol of civilization (and colonization). Here, a similar purpose is served by Hwaean “vestiges,” essentially fannish collectors’ items. But at the end of the day, this is a saga of children struggling to meet the strict obligations of family and adulthood, which makes it a microcosmic mirror of what the Presger have demanded of humanity.

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