I’m not sure if this is the weakest book of the three or if the thing that blew me away in the first book was the unusual premise and by now it no longer feels weird. By book three, I’m starting to figure out how the ship crew are sorted by “decade” each named after a god or goddess. Then again, if the best part of this book is trying to make sense of the skewed and mind-bending world, this one still has enough confusion to go around.
I got the audiobook version of this, and the author did an admirable job of sorting and distinguishing the voices, which helped a lot with comprehension, especially when some characters spoke with another character’s mouth (ships speaking through humans, for example). The only voice that really irritated me was Annander Minaii, who was done too-squeaky.
The Presger interpreter felt like comic relief, and the mysterious human who showed up in the undergarden, (being of the same racial background but not directly related to any of the people there) felt under-explained. Like, we eventually figured out who it was, but I still wasn’t exactly sure why it was there. With all of these books, you sort of have to just go along with the idea that you’ll never have all of it figured out.
This novel has plenty of tense moments, but by this point in the series, you pretty much know that Breq isn’t going to die in the middle of the story. Also, it’s missing a lot of the tension from the earlier ones, because it had that late-series feeling of all the characters really liking each other, like members of a well-knit family, where they may have conflicts but you never ever suspected that anyone would betray anyone else. The kiss-and-make-up scenes were emotionally satisfying, but I miss the tension of not knowing whether a beloved character will go against Breq for completely legitimate reasons. In the earlier books, it’s Breq vs the world, and other people have their own stories. In this one, it’s Breq vs the world, and everyone wants to help her; everyone was aligned towards the same goal, except for the Lord of the Radch, who is the enemy.
It was a fun listen, and I do like the characters, but the siphoning off of the internal conflict, and the fact that there weren’t any amazing and strange new technologies introduced made it merely “good” and not “exceptional.