Aliette de Bodard. Shipbirth. (Asimovs, February 2011).

Another in de Bodard’s ‘Xuya’ sequence, which has traced an alternate history in which China discovered America first, and China/Mexico are the global powers.

The earlier stories in that sequence were historical, and not being a huge fan of Alternate History, I did note in a review of her story Jaguar House in Asimovs last year ‘Now if only the author would write a big canvas space opera, that would be something I’d be really interested in reading.’

With this story, and a recent one in Interzone, now the Xuya timeline has got to the point that the stories are set in space, and colour me impressed. As with that Interzone story, this one features the sacrifices that have to be made to populate the spaceships with their AI minds, borne of women, and which crawl, newly birthed, to the heart of the ship.

The story adds a couple of layers of complexity, in the characters around whom the story revolves, in particular the person coming to test whether the mother of a shipmind which did not live to make the transition, has enough left of herself to live, or whether she is a husk. What that person has had to content with, both in the past, and in the trip to the ship which still awaits its mind, gives the story weight, as does the description of the ship, and the culture which imbues the building of the ship itself. I’m looking forward to more in this sequence.

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