Machine By Elizabeth Bear    White Space #2 – Book Review

  • Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press
  • Release Date: October 20, 2020
  • Pages: 496

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery / Saga Press for providing an early ARC in exchange for an honest review. Also, I have included quotes, which are subject to change as the book has not been released yet.

Official Blurb

In this compelling and addictive novel set in the same universe as the critically acclaimed White Space series and perfect for fans of Karen Traviss and Ada Hoffman, a space station begins to unravel when a routine search and rescue mission returns after going dangerously awry.

Great fun all along the way in the second White Space novel from Elizabeth Bear. Machine was a big Want the moment I saw that it was coming out. I loved the style of space opera I enjoyed in the previous work, Ancestral Night. The consistency is there, but because it’s not a sequel, we get to see the same type of technology and terminology, but from different characters perspectives.

I’m giving Machine Four Star’s. Below is my review. Hope you enjoy!

There was an assortment of fun concepts all wrapped up with smart dialogue, for instance, a detective that’s also an intelligent Praying Mantis, a slightly-losing-her-mind-and-made-of-a-golden-jello-shipmind-caretaker, shrieking Jim-jams, space puns, etc… Here’s a great quote that highlights this:

Escape, relax, start thinking about cocktails. Then, oh shit, nanotech tentacles.

I love reading sci-fi that deals with vast distances and unique technologies to help humans escape those restraints but not easily. It keeps it grounded in the physics, you can travel to the center of the galaxy, but it still might take you away from home for long periods of time.

In this novel, the main character serves as a doctor who specializes in retrieving people from hardcore scary complicated situations. Aa the story starts, they find a ship full of humans from a bygone era, all frozen in cryopods, mysterious circumstances abound, and a mission to bring them back to Core General, the hospital station in an amazing location that is monstrous in size and serves the needs of all forms of intelligent life, organic,shipmind AI, and synthetic. The drama is thick, the humor on point and the story very well thought out.

The majority of the story takes place on Core General. The hospital of hospitals, it resides in a not so subtle location, rotating around a black whole at the center of the galaxy. It’s location makes it a mix of every intelligent creature known to exist in this far future time. Dr. Jens is bounced around like a pinball to figure out what sort of mysteries have been hiding under her nose, all these years it’s been her home base. But also how to stop this alien-AI-computer virus-tinkertoy-machine from destroying not just the hospital, but all life in the galaxy. There might be a little pressure there….

People— human-type people, my own people— are constantly on a quest for an identity. Some lucky ones find the thing they want to be already inside themselves, or in a healthy family or community. Far too many of us, however, latch onto a simplified externality that seems to offer all the answers and invest our sense of meaning in it. We make some half-baked philosophy our driving force. Something we picked up reading the sort of novels and graphic stuff where first-person narrators opine bombastically about how the galaxy really works and what makes people really tick and How You Ought To Be.

My only critique is a slight repetitiveness in going through airlocks, and the back and forth travel around the station. Because so much takes place at this station, I guess it would be hard to avoid writing it in, and it’s not a big gripe at all. In fact, Bear does a great job of adding numerous insights about life in such a place, as well as highlighting the dangers that they take as commonplace. Dr. Jens inner dialogue was truly funny at times, and ended up being part of it’s charm. I really felt like an observer at times, as the writing is very high quality.

Another interesting aspect of this life in the future is the ability to load the “memory” or “perception” of specific lives of other species. Called Ayatanas, they come in very handy for Dr. Jens as she tries to save everyone and has to communicate with an extreme variety of life.

I recommend it highly for the sci-fi and space opera folk and hope we get another white space novel down the road.

Big Thanks to you, for giving my review a glance, and let me know what sci-fi you’re looking forward to reading before 2021!

Elizabeth Bear won the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer in 2005 and has since published fifteen novels and numerous short stories. She writes in both the science fiction and fantasy genres and has won critical acclaim in both. She has won the Hugo Award more than once. She lives in Massachusetts.

2 thoughts on “Machine By Elizabeth Bear    White Space #2 – Book Review

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