Machine by Elizabeth Bear
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Billed as a straight space opera (but not with a straight MC), this follows a lot of usual tropes. Between salvage, finding an alien artifact, and juggling a few mysteries while handling personal and interpersonal ones, this has all the hallmarks of a comfortable opera read.
Good points: the MC is a doctor and happens to be one devoted to her job no matter how complicated that makes her life. Personal pain management has a bit of a House feel, too. And then there is the Machine. I like the whole thing about the Machine, but let me be honest: it's been done before. A lot. Like, a lot, a lot. I think of just having read Paolini's new work a few months ago and I'm trying not to compare the two, but this one suffers.
Bad points: the pacing is sometimes uneven and my interest sometimes lagged. It was far from being a bad tale, but it generally fits firmly in the "comfort" SF category. Again, that's not really a bad thing. It just happens to be an issue about pushing those boundaries.
It really doesn't.
BUT, there are worse things than to be a comfort read that checks off a number of boxes. Me, I'd have preferred something a lot more courageous. The mystery was quite fun. Hacking AI consciousnesses is VERY fun. I suppose I would have gone gaga if there had been more. More mystery. More surprise.
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