Tuesday, 26 December 2017

On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard in a novella set on a far-future space station that I've been meaning to read for some time now. It's a standalone part of her Xuya universe, which I think I've dipped into before with at least one short story, but there are currently a lot more stories in that world than I've gotten around to reading.

For generations Prosper Station has thrived under the guidance of its Honoured Ancestress: born of a human womb, the station’s artificial intelligence has offered guidance and protection to its human relatives. But war has come to the Dai Viet Empire. Prosper’s brightest minds have been called away to defend the Emperor; and a flood of disorientated refugees strain the station’s resources. As deprivations cause the station’s ordinary life to unravel, uncovering old grudges and tearing apart the decimated family, Station Mistress Quyen and the Honoured Ancestress struggle to keep their relatives united and safe. What Quyen does not know is that the Honoured Ancestress herself is faltering, her mind eaten away by a disease that seems to have no cure; and that the future of the station itself might hang in the balance…

This was an interesting read with the story told from two somewhat conflicting points of view. The setting is a space station named Prosper, tending towards a lack of prosperity thanks to a multi-planet war that has called away the most educated and capable family members. The station has been left in the hands of its AI mind — the Honoured Ancestress — and Quyen who is now in charge of the station, despite not having been properly trained for the role.

On the other side of the story there's Linh, recently a magistrate, but now a refugee from the war. She comes to Prosper station seeing refuge thanks to a family tie and ends up clashing with Quyen. The story mainly follows the problems facing the two women, which have significant overlap as they come at them from different angles.

I found the switching in points of view, when we swapped between Quyen's view of Linh to Linh's view of Quyen (and both their views of other characters) quite fascinating. There was very little agreement between them and their opinions of each other were starkly different to their opinions of themselves. Their overlapping problems came together in the ending in a satisfying way.

I enjoyed this story enough that I went and bought the other available novella as soon as I finished it. I also hope to read some more of the short stories set in this universe sooner rather than later. I recommend On a Red Station, Drifting to fans of science fiction generally and, in particular, to anyone interested in reading about a Dai Viet-inspired space-based culture.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2012, Immersion Press
Series: Xuya universe (standalone)
Format read: ePub
Source: purchased from Kobo shop

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