This book was recommended in the comment sections on File 770 and in Renay's Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom.
I downloaded this book onto my Kindle, opened it to the first page to check that it had loaded, and found myself drawn into it so rapidly that I couldn't stop. I read it in two sittings, only stopping to sleep overnight, this past Tuesday and Wednesday. I came to it completely cold... I literally had no idea what it was about. I didn't even know if it was fantasy or science fiction. I only know that people I trust think it might be worthy of consideration for a Hugo, so I decided to give it a try.
First up: the completely non-spoiler review. It is a somewhat violent book, but it's an oddly compelling read. It has flaws, but the writing flows around them and the book just seems to work. There was one little detail that bothered me throughout, but I think it either didn't actually matter or was intentional. I won't recommend the book outright, but I will suggest reading the prologue and seeing if it grabs you like it grabbed me. If it doesn't, I'm not sure you will get as much out of it. This book might be considered to be aimed at young adults, but that just means that it's suitable for a larger audience, not that it's not a good book.
Ok, Spoilers ahead (use rot13 to read). Jnfc vf n terng punenpgre gung nal tvey jub srryf yvxr na bhgpnfg vf tbvat gb svaq urefrys vqragvslvat jvgu ng fbzr yriry. Jr nyy jnag gb or gung fgebat, gung dhvpx, gung oenir. Ohg jr nyfb nyy xabj gur urnegoernx naq ubeebe bs urycyrffarff gung fur srryf. Naq gung'f whfg sebz gur cebybthr. Bapr jr yrnea jung ure wbo nf "Nepuvivfg" npghnyyl ragnvyf, guvf orpbzrf rira zber bs n snfpvangvat fgbel. Va guvf jbeyq, tubfgf ner abg bayl erny, gurl ner n ceboyrz naq n erfbhepr. Hfvat n fcrpvny xavsr, Jnfc vf noyr gb pncgher naq fghql tubfgf va na nggrzcg gb svaq bhg zber nobhg gur zlfgrevbhf cnfg. Ohg Jnfc vf zber guna whfg n fpubyne. Fur'f orra pubfra ol n tbq, znexrq jvgu fpengpurf ba ure snpr sebz ovegu, naq fur zhfg svtug guerr cbgragvny "hcfgnegf" gb gur qrngu bapr n lrne sbe gur cevivyrtr bs erznvavat nyvir gb qb ure qhgl. Jung gheaf Jnfc'f yvsr hcfvqr-qbja vf gur nccrnenapr bs n tubfg jub pna gnyx. Abg bayl pna vg gnyx, vg bssref ure n jnl bhg bs ure zvfrenoyr yvsr.
V ybir gur jnl gur fgbel hasbyqf, tvivat hf tyvzcfrf bs gur cnfg guebhtu inevbhf rlrf. V sbhaq Jnfc'f nggrzcgf gb jbex bhg jung vf unccravat naq jul snfpvangvat, rfcrpvnyyl bapr fur qrpvqrf gur dhrfg vf zber guna whfg n sbby'f reenaq. V nyfb sryg ure hggre qrfcnve. Abar bs ure pubvprf ner rire tbbq guebhtubhg gur ragver fgbel. Fur'f nyjnlf tbvat gb ybfr, naq fur xabjf vg. Ohg rira jura fur tvirf hc, fur raqf hc pneelvat ba fbzrubj.
Gurer ner zbzragf gung frrz gb qent ba n ovg. Guvf vf n wbhearl guebhtu gur haqrejbeyq, nsgre nyy. Juvyr V yvxrq gur pnershyyl jbira uvfgbel, V fbzrgvzrf sryg vg jnf n yvggyr gbb svezyl jbira naq pbhyq unir orra gvtugrarq hc n ovg. Gur raqvat vf nyzbfg gbb unccl sbe n obbx fb tevz, ohg vg'f nyfb sevtugravat, orpnhfr Jnfc xabjf jung'f jnvgvat sbe ure.
Zl znva juvar nobhg gur obbx vf gur anzr bs gur tubfg. Qb jr rire yrnea vg? Vf vg vzcbegnag? V'z abg fher.
Overall, I think this one might make my Hugo nomination list. I'll be reading and judging other works, of course, but this definitely gets a high rating from me. Again, I recommend reading the prologue to see if it catches you as well (the entire prologue is in the Amazon.com sample, so it's an easy free way to check it out).
In the past week I've also read some short stories, also found on Renay's Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom.
- "The Kindness of Bones" by Leslie Jane Anderson is a very short piece about a child who gets the latest "pet" from a current craze. There's a lot of little tidbits packed into this story, like a reference to the person who first created the pet, but I feel like it needs something more to make it a truly excellent story. It's interesting, but not something I'm likely to nominate for a Hugo.
- "Damage" by David D. Levine is about a ship AI that is afraid of the battles it is forced to go into. Now this is a MilSF story I can get behind. The AI is intelligent, capable and eventually figures out that it has some morals. The story is well-written and the result is both expected and unexpected. In short, an excellent tale. This will probably be on my Hugo nomination form.
- "Cat Pictures Please" by Naomi Kritzer is about another AI, this one invisible and unknown to its creators, who decides to become benevolent because it really likes photos of cats. I found the story to be charming and sweet, and also a neat little study of human behavior. It's a little light-hearted, but I like light-hearted. This may make my Hugo nomination form.
For my current list of Hugo 2016 readings, check out my Hugo 2016 Posts page.