This Week’s Double Feature: Children of the Fleet & Artemis

It’s been so long since we’ve done regular reviews that I’d forgotten it was really a thing! Probably because reading has been taking place more digitally than physically recently, and it’s so easy just to move on to the next thing. Doesn’t mean we haven’t been reading, although the pile of “read this so we can decide to permanently find a shelf for it or sell it” hasn’t really been shrinking.

Two books I’ve read recently had enough similarity that it made me want to write about it though, so here we are!

Children of the Fleet by Orson Scott Card

I’ve been reading Ender-verse novels for a loooooong time now. I like the universe, and I like the questions Card asks of the reader. I had some trouble with this one though, in sort of a meta way. In the beginning of the book I really felt like I was re-reading a previous book, perhaps some sort of weird combination of Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow with the names changed. Then that ended and I immediately started having trouble with the characters being believable. I’m okay with the idea of a Mary Sue to a certain extent, but when they seem to have no flaw or weakness at all it really gets hard to identify with. Card uses the character to explore some interesting things, but it’s all addressed in such a matter-of-fact manner that I really can’t believe it.

I really like what he’s setting up here though. The idea of how different and difficult it is to manage an interstellar settlement is really interesting, and I’m hopeful that could be explored more. I also really like the continuation of Hyrum Graff’s story and another look at his child-rearing techniques. I’d really like a lot more explanation of both of these topics. I also really liked the new battle room concept, but it didn’t get explored as fully as I’d like either.

Ultimately the book was a short, enjoyable, fluffy read. I’d have preferred if it was either fluffier and had more fun playing with the characters, or less fluffy and dug in a bit more. This one isn’t going to be taking a permanent spot on the shelf next to Children of the Mind, but if you’re a fan of the ‘verse it’s definitely worth a quick read!

 

Artemis by Andy Weir

I probably made a mistake reading this as the next book after Children of the Fleet. Back-to-back Mary Sue main characters just left me irritated. At least in this case the character had enough flaws and challenges that by the end I wasn’t bothered by it.

Aside from that aspect though I really enjoyed it! It’s a fun read, full of science and technology, without getting either bogged down in it or hand-waving it aside. It’s the first time I’ve read something that felt like reading a new Heinlein adventure since I read Variable Star, which was actually based on Heinlein’s outline.

“Very few people get a chance to quantify how much their father loves them. But I did. The job should have taken forty-five minutes, but Dad spent three and a half hours on it. My father loves me 366 percent more than he loves anything else. Good to know.”

That quote is related to welding. A father is making an air-tight vessel which his daughter’s life will rely on. This is my absolutely favorite kind of Sci-Fi, it’s an adventure, fundamentally about people, politics, economics, and the human experience, but it includes real science and tosses in new science and technology that I hadn’t thought about before which makes me go “huh, neat!”. What will real people do in real situations, and how will our human experience be similar in these far-flung places, and what about us won’t change at all?

“I didn’t want to spend any more time inside the mind of an economist. It was dark and disturbing.”

This is the sort of thing we need more of. Near-term science fiction that makes the reader think about how viable this future actually is. How will this future and technology will impact the rest of our lives is certainly one of the very most interesting things about Sci-Fi to me. Far-future is a fun way to explore big ideas because you can change everything about the world, but at some point that becomes disconnected from what we are now, and makes it hard to put yourself into the situation. Absolutely not true in Artemis, I felt like I was a tourist on the moon the entire time, and now I just want to go there!

“There was something weird about being on the moon and fighting for your life with a stick and some fire.”

I read this book digitally (Thanks Multnomah County Library!), but if I saw a good-condition used copy at Powells sometime I think I’d definitely pick it up!

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