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3.0 out of 5 starsOne of SF's more thoughtful authors at her less thoughtful
Reviewed in the United States on July 4, 2015
One of SF's more thoughtful authors at her less thoughtful. It's good — Melissa Scott is always good — but sluggish and unloving. Not quite the sharp-edged cyberpunk it seems to be trying to be, and not quite the insightful story of marginalized people Scott is excellent at.
5.0 out of 5 starsThe most brilliantly constructed scifi world I've encountered
Reviewed in the United States on April 18, 2017
This is one of the most realistic, absorbing sci-fi universes I have ever dived into so I've got to dedicate a bit to it:
What got me hooked most of all was how it manages to stay clear of one of the most common pitfalls of catapulting modern Western society forward a few thousand years and instead builds it's own rich cultures meshing in an underground city. There is a strong class system and racial tensions, there are ethical arguments surrounding burgeoning artificial intelligences contrasted against the deprivation of rights that many of the local populace suffers under. Greetings, formalities, cuisine, family groupings, and entertainment are all thought out in great detail.
The technology is a close second in terms of world-building coolness; Melissa Scott has done so well in creating futuristic wetware, software, etc that doesn't shy away from showing it's own pitfalls. Characters are occasionally blinded when they forget to turn down the blindness on their overlays when they walk into a data-filled environment and jumping into someone else's customised VR system will leave you floundering like if you tried to use a colleague's weird trackball and Dvorak keyboard in real life.
The characters are also really well created and diverse without falling into stereotypes. The lack of sexualisation of Jian while still not denying her sexuality in her thoughts is refreshing to read. No characters are presented as entirely good or evil, they all have quirks that make them at times intolerable and loveable and most of all: human.
4.0 out of 5 starsA fine novel from one of my favourite authors
Reviewed in the United States on December 3, 2014
A fine novel from one of my favourite authors; Dreamships goes far deeper than a sci-fi romp. Admittedly, there's plenty of hard tech and clever concepts in here, and the setting as varied and complex as you could imagine.
What you are really getting however is a very detailed analysis of the soul and what it is to be Human (well humanoid) in a multi-cultured spread of townships and species. As the threat (or hope, depending on your politics) of the breaking of the Turing Barrier appears imminent, battle lines are drawn and a nefarious set of plots within plots unfurl - leaving our main characters: Reverdy, Vaughn and Red (all very different, all with their own demons) to race for their own and their comrades' survival.
Aside from what seemed a more rushed ending than I wanted - the big bad AI wasn't the End of Level Boss I'd hoped for - the overall resonance of the book is very positive and I was not let down.
5.0 out of 5 starsA Truly Delightful and Intelligent Read
Reviewed in the United States on June 30, 2008
Melissa Scott's Dreamships is one of my favorite novels and I return to it from time to read it again. However, if you are looking for fast paced action adventure this is not the novel for you. Scott's work is more character and idea driven, and I find her people and thoughts fascinating.
When Reverdy Jian and her co workers Imre Vaugn and "Red" agree to pilot the starship "Young Lord Byron" to an asylum planet called Refuge they get more than they bargained for. Not only is their employer less than honest about the nature of their voyage, but as events play out their trip will catalyze massive social unrest when it is learned that they may have a true artificial intelligence on board.
In a sense the book is not so much about artificial intelligence as it is about how the discovery of true AI might impact a society. So Scott takes her time building up our sense of the culture and world her characters inhabit. And to me, at least it is an intriguing world. Persephone where most of the action is set is a planet with a rotation of four standard days so that temperatures on the surface are always either too hot or too cold for comfort. The majority of the inhabitants live in an underground city which inverts our ideas of prestige and power in that the wealthiest classes live far below the surface. Scott has created an equally complex social and political world. The planet is owned by an offworld government, but actually governed by a corporate cartel and the political tensions created by this situation play out as the story unfolds.
Also as a person who grew up in Southeast Asia I have a great appreciation for the multicultural aspect that Scott weaves into her tale. So many science fiction novels I have read are simply projections of American culture into the future. While Reverdy Jian and her partner Imre Vaughn are "Yanquis" (caucasians) the majority of Persephone's inhabitants reflect a mixed Asian background, and Scott melds many elements together so that we are left with the sense of an authentically different culture.
Another aspect of Scott's work which I find apealing is her willingness to explore what everyday life might be like in a future society. Her characters have real jobs and do real work and Scott doesn't shy away from taking time to explore this aspect of things. Obviously this is not everyone's cup of tea, and I can understand how someone expecting a more plot driven story might be disappointed. On the other hand, I find that when the action beats in the story occur they feel much more real and generate much more tension than they would otherwise.
On the whole though, I think it is the people who draw me back to this novel again and again. Scott creates lifelike characters with real problems, hurts and needs. Although the people in the story occaisionally act heroically, they are not heros. They are ordinary working class people who are caught up in events that are momentous and beyond their control. Scott then sets them into her densely layered future world and the result is in many ways an extraordinarily touching story.
If you are interested in an intelligent well written thought provoking work of entertaining science fiction I highly recommend Dreamships and its companion novel Dreaming Metal.
I don't know whether I'd never read this book before, or just not in the past 20-odd years.
I did love it. Generally, I love Scott's novels.
The setting is a somewhat dystopian class-ridden society, where some humans have rights and some do not. This makes the ideal of AIs being legally defined as "human" much more fraught that it out to be: if that happens, then machines will havemore rights than many humans- and i agree that this is not an acceptable result.
However- isn't the solution to insure that both humans AND AIs (if they pass the tests) be considered human??? It's not required to be an either/or choice!
I'll add that- as usual- Scott includes a variety of sex/gender identifications as normal. This is one of the reasons I love her work.
(She has also given me a huge passion for eating noodles....)