Top critical review
THIS won a Hugo?
Reviewed in the United States on November 8, 2018
A science fiction story has to hang together–not in every detail or plot point, but enough to create a convincing scenario. This book fails that test.
1. The main "alien" world in this book is medieval England–with dogs. It's divided into city-states replete with castles, dungeons, balconies, scrolls, tables, cabinets, bows and arrows. (Uh, don't bows and arrows require...fingers?) There are spies, assassins, artists apprentices–even a Queen, a council, and a Lord Chamberlain. This is Earth 2.0. I was hoping for something more inventive.
2. When I say dogs, I don't mean German Shepherds. These aliens are tiny--some are menacing and villainous. Others are as cute and cuddly as teddy bears. There are vicious wolves that the author compares to gerbils. The cute and ominous work against each other.
3. And the cute little dogs aren't the only silly aliens. We also have villainous butterflies. Then there are the Skroderiders, who seem to be intelligent potted plants on wheels. The author came up with gimmicky names for the hive-mind dogs–so we end up with Peregrine Wickwrackrun, and other polysyllabic monstrosities. I feel sorry for the poor soul who had to read this for the audio version.
4. Speaking of the language...What's a sophont? What's an agrav? My eyes glazed over. Too much excessive jargon, too few orienting details, and often insufficient explanation to help the reader visualize the action. Here are a couple of examples:
"Cricketsong is a synthetic race created as a jape/experiment/instrument by the High Willow upon its Transcendence."
"Saint Rihndell had a small harbor about sixteen million klicks around the RIP system. The move was even plausible, for it happened that there was a Skroderider terrane in the Harmonious Repose system–and currently it was just a few hundred kilometers from Rihndell's second harbor.They would rendezvous with the tusk-legs, exchanging repairs for two hundred seventeen flamed trellises. And if the trellises were perfectly matched, Rihndell promised to throw in an agrav refit."
You can sort of, kinda get what the author means–but trying to wade through page after page of this is worse than reading a manual on tractor hyperdrive repair.
5. And we also have missteps with characterization:
"After a long period of normal progress, Jefri had come back with a counterplan. It consisted of a complete reworking of the tables for the accoustic interface."
Who is Jefri?
This kid Jefri is eight years old (though his canine sidekick is a budding Stephen Hawking). But do you know any eight-year-old kid who thinks like that?
6. I'll just add that there are better stories out there. For an example of an outlandish, but somehow believable, sci-fi novel read CHILDREN OF TIME. If you like dogs with your sci-fi, I also recommend CITY by Clifford D. Simak and David W. Wixon--an older book but nicely written.