Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (13 Mar 2003)
Another re-read, as it happens. But since I've not reviewed it before, and since (for some reason) I barely remembered it, I'm counting this as a new read.
(It usually takes a long time for me to forget a novel once I've read it. The last case of managing to get a few dozen pages into a book and then realising I'd read it before was Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, some years ago. I worry that the plots of a few thousand novels may be displacing something more useful, but on the other hand, I can usually recognise a book within the first page or two.)
Let's face it - the central character of this one is no angel. Ae is possibly the only major criminal in a huge interstellar civilisation. This is a very internalised narrative - it's being dictated by Ae, in an inescapable prison, to a stone. No diary here, for some reason. It chronicles the previous escape from the jailstar (a prison floating in the outer surface of a star) of Ae, with some mysterious help from outside, in order that Ae should go and kill a planetful of people. Why? Well, if there is any reason for Ae's actions, the very existence of a reason at all remains clouded for much of the book.
Ae is not a pleasant person - deeply introverted, and probably totally unable to empathise with another human being. But we're not reading this because we're supposed to like the central character - we're reading it to find out the reasons for what is going on, to peek inside a deeply troubled psyche. How can someone living in what is effectively a Utopia (or a Eutopia) come to be so evil? In this book, I think Roberts has succeeded in providing one answer to that question.
Much superior in my view to Gradisil.