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On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard #BookReview

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

On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard book cover

Title: On a Red Station, Drifting | Author: Aliette de Bodard | Series: Xuya #1 | Publisher: Immersion Press | Pub. Date:24th December 2012 | Pages: 106 | ISBN: 9780956392459 | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Starred Review: No | Source: Self-purchased

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On a Red Station, Drifting Review

‘On a Red Station, Drifting’ is a book that I ended up not liking as much as I wanted to. Despite the fact that it has many, many strong qualities, it just didn’t engage me in the way that I wanted it to. Reading it was an experience that left me feeling unsatisfied in a way that I can’t really define. Looking back at it I wonder if the fault was mine rather than the author’s. Was I too distracted by the weirdness of the world of 2020 to let the book carry me away? If time was no object, I’d probably read it again to be sure. Life’s too short to reread books you’re not sure if you liked though, so instead I’m going to attempt to review it.

Let’s start with the good points. ‘On a Red Station, Drifting’ is a thoughtful, beautifully written and richly detailed science fiction novella with some wonderful world building. It’s set on Prosper Station, a floating colony controlled by an artificial intelligence (the Honoured Ancestress) and populated by a complex society inspired by Asian culture. Both the space station and the Dai Viet culture are brilliantly described. The book is filled with the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of the place. Food plays a huge part, with its importance to the characters and their interactions clear. It’s the kind of subtle detail that really helps to immerse you in an unfamiliar world and it works brilliantly here.

The problem I had was that, presented with a lush and detailed world, I couldn’t find characters or events to latch onto. The plot concerns refugees of a massive war arriving on the station, and the resulting clash between a member of Prosper Station’s establishment and a magistrate amongst the refugees. I just couldn’t get into it though. The story didn’t engage me and the characters blurred together. That feels like a big shame, as so much of what is here is brilliant. In the end it felt a bit like the Star Wars prequels – full of great ideas but lacking in oomph. I’ll certainly try Aliette de Bodard’s books again in the future though, even if I don’t elect to read this one again.

You can find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads (Buying direct from retailers is a good way to support indie authors); however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.

Published inScience Fiction Book ReviewsUnstarred Reviews
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