There’s a host of interesting ideas in this book. Probably too many, in fact. They never feel very fully explored. There’s obviously more to see in future volumes – some of the intriguing cultures mentioned barely get a look in here, but clearly will later in the series – but I found myself wishing that there was less to see and more to focus on. The problem is somewhat exacerbated by a moderately large cast of characters. There, however, Welker does a good job of keeping them straight for despite a dizzying array of permutations and settings.
Despite being far, far in the future, gender roles seem to have reverted to those of the late 1900s – not just in one culture, but broadly. There are strong female characters, but they’re clearly operating largely in patriarchal societies. To be fair, there are some indications that there may be other societies in future volumes.
Perhaps because we’re rushed so fast through so many situations, there are a number of weak points and downright gaps that aren’t well papered over. A valuable robot in an impoverished, desperate society gets few looks and no attempts to take it. A sizeable army approaches without anyone really noticing. Some (re)inventions appear to come out of the blue, very conveniently. The robot is extremely human in his (yes, his) emotions and introspection. A miner in an isolated community somehow has context and even terminology for a host of surprise discoveries, including advanced science.
Keeping in mind that this is an ARC, the book needed substantial proofreading, including some consistent errors that made me worry a bit what the final, polished product may look like. While the prose is broadly smooth, there are some semantic errors that caused me concern. I did like some of the moments of humor that helped leaven a pretty long book.
Overall, I liked the accoutrements, but found the overall story too thin and patchy, with too many weak points, too many convenient saves, and too little patience. I think the book would have benefited from several more rounds of editing, and a little more narrative discipline. Promising, but not quite ready.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.