July 10, 2018

Hugo Reading 2018: The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang

This is the last of the Novella nominations. I didn't own this book, so I had to wait to get it in the Hugo packet. This is a peculiar but interesting mash of fantasy and science fiction, Chinese legend and (actual feathered) dinosaurs, magic--here called "slackcraft"--and science, wrapped in an age-old thread of a tyrannical ruler attempting to control a kingdom, and her twin children who are trying to overthrow her.

I liked it well enough, but I think I liked the premise better than the execution. The world itself, the Protectorate, was fascinating, if a little scanty on the details. No infodumping, that's for sure; we find out about the world organically, bit by bit, the tidbits of information unfolding along with the story. (I particularly liked the idea of children being allowed to choose their gender, and able to change their minds at any given time, even into adulthood. Ialmost wish that's something we could implement in real life.) The prose is smooth and sure, and the author has obviously thought about and worked out the details of her (their?) world, even if we aren't privy to all of them yet.

The main thing that bugged me about this story is the time jumps. Every few chapters, we advance by X number of years. I can see where the plot demands this, but in that case, I think this book needed to be expanded in length to better smooth over the narrative abruptness. As it was, this made it hard for me to relate to the characters and really get into the story. So, my final take on this one: I liked it but didn't love it, and it will not be placed at the top of my ballot.

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