Liquid Crystal Nightingale by Eeleen Lee
Well, where do I start with this one?
I haven't been reading much sci-fi lately, mostly because I don't seem to enjoy them as much as I imagine that I used to. I don't know if it's because of a shift in my reading tastes, or if it's an overall change in the style of writing in newer sci-fi books.
Liquid Crystal Nightingale is a case in point. I picked it up because it was written by a Malaysian and it sounded interesting enough; it's basically a murder mystery with political underpinnings set in a space colony in the future. I wanted to devour it but found myself struggling to anchor myself in the story and the world. It didn't help that besides the very carefully structured and described advanced future on Chatoyance that hinged heavily on gemology (something I have no idea about), it also flipped back and forth in time with rampant flashbacks and scarce signposts of whether the thing happening was in the present or the recent past or actually a few years back by now.
This makes it sound like I hated the book. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. It just required too much effort at the initial level. I admit, I am a very lazy reader. I was planning to review this according to my normal schedule on Wednesday (I DID finish it by then), but decided bagi chance la and did a re-read. The second read-through flowed much better when I could orient myself properly.
The world-building is well done. Chatoyance and its related space colonies feel fully-formed with interesting histories and backstories; the Tiers, the mining industries, the Artisans, the underworld and their religions. There are so many layers to the world that it has a life of its own--though that might have been its own downfall; the multi-layered complexity may have been what confused me (I don't do very well following real-life political intrigue either). I think it would appeal very much to more science-y types (or actual gemologists!) and those who like layers upon layers of political conspiracy.
The ending feels a little like an Inspector Rebus book: the mystery has been solved and the perpetrators caught, but the actual conclusion is still slightly vague. You have to read between the lines (a few times) to figure out what the perpetrators have admitted to and are being arrested for. There's a sort-of satisfaction to this, I guess.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Rebellion via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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