Science fiction and fantasy
On A Red Station, Drifting
by Aliette De Bodard
Some of the story is told from Quyen's point of view. Quyen wants to make Linh a lowly tutor, and they clash over Linh's role and over status. Quyen's husband is away at war, whilst Linh's husband Giap's fate is unknown. Another relative, Huu Hieu, is in some sort of trouble with debts, but what exactly his problems are is surrounded by mystery to begin with.
Events unfold in a slow, measured, and sad way that centres on human status relationships rather than fast-paced drama. Subtle poetry is used as a weapon. This is a world that seems to be culturally stuck in the past, in spite of being set in space with abundant technology all over the space station.
Linh is threatened by the words she spoke against the Emperor, which could bring down the Emperor's dreaded Embroidered Guard to hunt her down. They could kill not only her, but also the entire population of the station in retribution for offering Linh help and treating her as kin, and all that as a result of the words she used. As the family is threatened with death, this could be their last chance to reconcile with each other before they all die.
This is a quietly moving novella that doesn't go all out for the flashy action that is more characteristic of space opera. Instead it has a focus on human relationships and rivalries that is refreshingly complex and understated.
13th May 2020
If you like this, try:God’s War by Kameron Hurley
A government-sponsored assassin finds herself in trouble when she breaks too many rules. But she is the one the queen turns to in order to track down a dangerous alien.
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy