Review: Provenance by Ann Leckie

We are back to the universe of the Radch, new pronouns and strange aliens. Provenance is set shortly after the events of Ancillary Mercy but the tumultuous events of that book are a minor background to this new stand-alone novel (i.e. you needn’t have read the Ancillary books).

Ingray is the adopted child of a high ranking family of the Hwae system. Now a young adult (I think) she has been brought up to compete directly with her brother to win the privilege of being named their parent’s heir – an event which would lead one of them to adopt a new name and gain both wealth, status and political responsibility.

The people of Hwae (or at least the high-ranking ones) obsess over social status in a way that the Radch obsesses over rank (and tea). Central to this cult-like obsession is the veneration of ‘vestiges’ – artifacts that demonstrate the age of a family and possible connections to historical events. Vestiges can be anything from physical objects to letters and postcards or ticket stubs.

When we first meet Ingray she is off planet, embroiled in a scheme that is within her cognitive capacity to execute but for which she is not temperamentally prepared. As events unfold, a prison break, stolen spaceships, a murder of foreign dignitary and an invasion plot unfold around Ingray in a story that has elements of a mad-cap caper along side space-opera and Leckie’s trademark examination of the potential variety of human culture.

Above all Ingray is an honest person caught in a story in which most people she meets (both the good and the bad) are liars. This is such a clever trick by Leckie, as she manages to encapsulate Ingray very quickly as a character very early in the book, while giving her a backstory that gives her reasons to attempt a devious scheme (returning a notorious exiled criminal/disgraced vestige keeper to Hwae to embarrass her parent’s political rival). Ingray’s basic niceness wins her some useful allies and her naturally bravery pushes her further into the events.

Despite one murder and a potential war, this is a much lighter book than the Ancillary/Imperial Radch trilogy. Of the three books it reminded me most of Ancillary Mercy which also featured some aristocratic planetary shenanigans and also gave us insight into a different somewhat parochial future human culture.

I didn’t find it overall as compelling as Ancillary Justice and I think I preferred the higher stakes and darker tone of Breq’s world but Provenance also feels more self-confident to be its own thing.

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Is Discovery on an Alice in Wonderland trip?

I’m quite taken with a theory that was posted in the comments by “tegeus-Cromis” on the last review of Star Trek Discovery. Here is part of the comment:

“I wonder if it’s all a big Carrollesque joke (or game, at least). Obviously, we’ve had Michael/Alice being chased *up* the rabbit hole/Jeffreys tube by the caterpillar/tardigrade (which grooves on mushrooms, of course – and does a passable imitation of hookah smoking later) – and all the while she’s reciting the actual Alice in Wonderland.

But we also have the mad-as-a-hatter Lorca, who always seems to have a meal/tea party laid out before him (never mind that he anagrams out as ‘I B Carroll egg’ – red herring, I think). Alice/Michael then acquires Tilly as a roommate, so we have two of the three sisters who lived in the treacle well – Lacie, Tillie and Elsie. Haven’t figured out Elsie yet. There’s something of the White Rabbit about Saru too, I think.” https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/review-star-trek-discovery-episode-5/#comment-10577

Here, as a reminder you probably don’t need, is Tenniel’s iconic illustration from Carroll’s book.

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As pointed out the fussy Saru has a White Rabbit like aspect to him and Lorca does seem to be mad as a hatter. The comment suggests Tilly as one of the sisters who live in a treacle well but given Tilly’s notable snoring the Doormouse (who if I remember rightly is the one who tells the story of the treacle well) seems like a match. Tilly isn’t actually particularly sleepy as a character but she is shown sleeping (and snoring) far more often than normal.

Then there is the end of episode 5 and…well…the show runners have said that the infamous Star Trek mirror universe (where people are evil and Spock has a goatee) will be making an appearance aka Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Aside from anything else consider this. Michael is *supposed* to be a massive Alice in Wonderland fan, carries with her a paperback edition of the book and recites passages of the book under stress (episode 3) but DOESN’T go ‘OMG a spaced-out caterpillar with on a mushroom!’ when she works out what the tardigrade can do.

However, there does not seem to be any obvious matches with Stamets nor does the Cheshire Cat have any obvious matches with the crew.

 

 

Review: Star Trek Discovery – Episode 5

It is a Lorca Episode this week on Dark Trek and also a shout-out episode with references galore to the original series, the animated series (apparently), The Next Generation and for added fun Twin Peaks. Is it a good episode? Mmmm, if you don’t like the antithesis qualities of Discovery as a cyncial mirror to the more ethical federation of Jean-Luc Picard, then you’ll hate this episode – although their are glimmers.

The premise (which is in the episode synopsis so not a spoiler) is that Lorca gets captured by the Klingons and on a Klingon prison/torture ship he meets Harry Mudd, a recurring character from the original series…beyond here spoilers follow.

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