Finished Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. Third volume in the science fiction series that began with the multi award winning "Ancillary Justice".
I liked the first book, which benefited from the underdog appeal of former starship AI Breq now trapped in a single human body, and the plot impetus of a quest for revenge. The second volume, with Breq now made a starship captain by one side in an imperial power struggle, I thought was weaker: Breq is less of an underdog and the plot is sluggish as she mainly reacts to events.
I thought this one suffered from the same flaws as the second. There's not much narrative push and not much appeal to the character of Breq, despite other characters gushing about how wonderful she is. There are some nods to the creepiness of Breq using surveillance to keep track of the private lives of her subordinates and take sides in their quarrels.
I was hoping that some of the ideas and elements raised in the earlier volumes would get resolved, but they don't. The first book explicitly the possibility of the ancillary being returned to its original human state, presumably by switching off the AI controls. That implicitly raises the horrific possibility that the original human is helplessly aware and trapped as the AI moves her limbs and operates her voice. This doesn't get addressed here and sanctimonious Breq doesn't seem troubled by it. We don't find out which side is winning the civil war, or what will happen to the Radch after the war is won. There's a lot of tea drinking, a fair amount of angst, and a little bit of action. One good point is a nicely alien alien ambassador.
Overall, not really recommended. I don't think you'd miss much if you stopped reading after the first book in the series.
What I Was Reading
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. Djinn return to Earth and wage a war between two factions. One faction obeys a wish to create fear and chaos in order to drive humans back to God. Another opposes them with the aid of part-human-part-djinn descendants.
Pretty good. I thought it was a bit of a return to form by Rushdie with some of the lighter and more fantastical elements of his early and children's stuff. Would have liked to see more detail of how the djinn create havoc: the fairytale style feels a bit distant.
What I'm Watching
Saw Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation on TV. As you'd expect, not original, but a good, fast-paced action movie with plenty of good stunt sequences. Good entertainment. Was good to see a film in one sitting for once.
Took the toddler up to see the family for a few days. Had a great time, lots of good food and time to relax. Toddler was fine on both journeys, was fascinated by the vehicles ("Bigredcar! Unnergrountrain!").
My father has multiple serious conditions, and as always it's hard come back after months and see him deteriorate. His mental functioning didn't seem worse, though that comes and goes. His walking has gone bad though. Last time he could shuffle a few steps around the nursing home or the house when we bring him home, now he has to be almost lifted from car to wheelchair. Wish I could go more often but circumstances make it difficult.
Office party tonight, actually looking forward to it. Dress code says black tie is optional but last year just about every man there except me was in a dinner jacket so I'm going along with the herd. This is the only IT company I've heard of where people dress more formally than the dress code allows. Tying a bow tie seems incredibly difficult, probably a skill you need to learn when you're young and dextrous, but it finally seems roughly bow-shaped. With a normal tie at least if it goes wrong it's wonky or lopsided in a way that gives you a clue how to correct it next time: bow ties just seem to collapse into noodles when they go wrong.
Socioeconomics. Human capital shallowing. Training: going out of fashion for a decade. Pay growth to remain low: "for all the talk of mounting skills shortages employers in most sectors... appear perfectly capable of hiring at will without having to hike pay rates".
Non-random. How to tie a bow tie.
Politics. YouGov's Anthony Wells on their report on why the UK election polling was wrong, full report. (Basically sampling bias over relationship between political interest and age. Nothing to do with Shy Tories or Lazy Labour: actually Tory responders less likely to vote).
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