Hugo reading 2018: Provenance, by Ann Leckie

Provenance, by Ann Leckie, was a lot of fun. I feel like there is a bit of a trend this year for twisty, political, space opera, featuring at least one character who isn’t what he or she seems. I’m totally there for this trend, but it does make it a little difficulty to review books without giving anything away (which is why my review of Raven Stratagem really doesn’t do it justice, sadly).
 
So, let’s see. Our protagonist is Ingray, who is in competition with her foster brother to become their foster mother’s heir. She decides that a good way to impress her mother would be to break out the son of a rival from prison, and get em to show her where e hid eir family’s vestiges. 
 
And before I continue, let’s pause to actually understand what that sentence meant. Vestiges are… souvenirs with historical significance, basically. Letters from important ancestors, signatures on important documents, and so forth. Families on Ingray’s planet derive a lot of their prestige and political power from the possession of such vestiges.
 
As for the e/eir/em – well, in this book, that seems to be the third gender option, and about a third of characters are nomen. Which is just a thing, and not commented on. I have to say, I’m in two minds about the pronouns here. My linguistic, intellectual, aesthetic mind really loves them – they feel logical, organic in a way that zie/zir does not to me (I will, obviously, use whatever pronouns someone prefers, but that particular variant never looks quite like it belongs in English – a ludicrous statement that – to me). But for some reason, the same part of my brain that ‘hears’ punctuation and apostrophes when I read, and jerks to a halt when one is in the wrong place, kept on parsing this as cockney English and so every time someone was referred to as e or em, the whole sentence developed a strong cockney accent. Which… gave everything a strangely cheeky, working class vibe, and was a little bit distracting.
 
In short, I really liked these pronouns but the part of my brain that does reading has difficulty coping with them.
 
Back to the plot. Which is immediately complicated when it begins to look like the person Ingray broke out may not have been the right person. And then there are complications involving various alien species, political infighting, and extremely dysfunctional families.
 
I really enjoyed this novel. I like twisty politics, and I like families where some of the dysfunction comes from people being tools, but some of it comes from people meaning really well and just being terrible at it. Or doing stupid things to protect people. I appreciated the ways in which the various dysfunctions were resolved, and that some people were just going to continue to be tools and one just has to accept this as a thing and deal with it in whatever way works for you.
 
I liked, too, that this was something of a coming of age story for Ingray. Actually, between the family stuff and Ingray figuring out what she is good at, you could make a good case for putting this in the New Adult or Young Adult category.
 
Anyway. This was lots of fun, and I’m going to have to think hard about whether it comes in ahead of or behind Raven Stratagem.

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