I did not finish your book, a specific example

Okay, so you know I’m not reading much right now. Not since, I guess, 2020 or even 2019. But I DO try to read SOME new to me books, and this one is the most recent:

Now, Ascending is the first book of a duology; the second book is called Bright Shards. The first book has a 4.5 rating, the second 4.7. Someone here suggested this duology, and I think I see at least part of why. The story that opens in Ascending is quite catchy and engaging. This is true even though it opens with dialogue. I was drawn in at once and quite cheerfully read through the part where Avery learns the Vardeshi language, the Vardeshi turn up, and Avery is of course — since she knows the language — chosen as the one person who will return with them to their homeworld as part of, basically, a cultural exchange.

This all takes quite a while and I really liked it!

Now, spoilers coming up because otherwise I can’t talk about why I DNFed this book.

Parts I did not love: Avery accepts without question the idea that the Vardeshi are very superior to humans. Which they are in a lot of ways. They look a whole lot like humans, but they are stronger, faster, more beautiful. Fine, that is actually annoying, but whatever. They made first contact and then changed their minds because humans weren’t socially advanced enough, which always annoys me, but okay. Then they left, and now they came back and here’s Avery on their ship and …

… they are not remotely more socially advanced than humans. They are exactly as mean and petty as any humans you might care to select at random from any normal human culture. But also more condescending because they assume they are so superior. Which Avery appears to continue to agree with, for some reason, even though they plainly are not at all superior. They’re very hierarchical and have a lot of social behaviors meant to reinforce social hierarchy via continual displays of superiority and dominance from those higher up, versus displays of submission from those lower down. Which Avery accepts, basically without a blink.

Oh, by the way, they’re all telepaths, surprise! Except some, a minority, are not, and the rest are highly condescending to and really rather cruel to the Blanks, the non-telepaths …

… How is it that Avery continues to believe these people are superior? If you are wondering how she manages to accommodate that belief in the face of mounting evidence that the Vardeshi are frequently mean, petty, selfish, and so on, well, so was I.

The captain of the Vardeshi ship seems to have it in for Avery. At first I thought she was wrong about that, but evidence mounts that no, he really dislikes her and is unfair to her. Does she stand up to him? Basically, no. I mean, I think that the author thinks she does. I don’t think so at all. Does the captain abrogate the spirit of the cultural exchange? Absolutely, yes.

All of this was tolerable. I kept going. Then a plot twist! Sabotage of the ship, which Avery OBVIOUSLY COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE RESPONSIBLE FOR because she does not know remotely enough about Vardeshi technology to perform this kind of sabotage. But the captain is blaming her anyway because …

… I don’t know why. I don’t know if he’s insane. (There are hints he might be.) I don’t know if he has a subtle plan to find out the real saboteur by pretending to blame Avery. (That would be true if I were writing this story.) I don’t know if the author just thinks this is actually believable. (It is not believable.)

I don’t know, and I guess I’m not going to find out, because I quit. This is at the 75% mark, which may be as close as I have EVER come to finishing a book and then quitting.

So what we have here is:

a) worldbuilding elements (the superior human-like aliens that are condescending toward humans) that I don’t really like, and

b) character traits (Avery’s willingness to believe in Vardeshi superiority when they are obviously not superior) that I don’t really like, and

c) a plot twist that I hate and also don’t believe.

The first two caused a faint distancing and a distraction. I kept wondering whether Avery would ever comment inwardly that the Vardeshi were actually just normal people and wonder to herself why they should possibly feel so superior. Telepathy appears and I thought surely she would think, Oh, when they realized humans aren’t telepaths, that’s when they got their knickers in a twist and pulled back, that just seemed so weird to them. None of that happened, and I started to grit my teeth a bit.

Given that, when a major plot twist occurred that I didn’t like and didn’t believe, that was it.

I don’t expect to pick this up again, but the right kinds of spoilers provided by any of you who have read this duology could change my mind. Does Avery EVER realize that the Vardeshi are not actually nicer than humans? Is the captain’s behavior actually a tactical ploy? In this situation, I don’t mind spoilers a bit. The more the better. Please let me know your thoughts if you think I’m off-base with this DNF decision.

Meanwhile, I’m considering what else I might try.

Please Feel Free to Share:


8 thoughts on “I did not finish your book, a specific example”

  1. That’s just too bad as the premise is interesting! The blurb for the sequel implies the protagonist has proven herself somehow, so I am guessing she uncovers the real saboteur and the captain either grudgingly accepts her or maybe is revealed to be a villain and everyone else grudgingly accepts her. Also, it looks like this isn’t a duology but an unfinished series, there are mentions of a forthcoming third book that got as far as having a title in reviews of the second but the author’s website has no updates since 2019… :(

  2. I have to say, I loved this book even though I had problems with it. It made me a little uncomfortable, like I was basically reading about an abusive situation. And yet. In the end, Avery learns the aliens have just as many issues as humans, and they are not so superior after all. And then she falls in love with someone who looks down on her! Or does he? It’s a really interesting book.

  3. I started this book and when the aliens condescendingly left because humans weren’t socially advanced enough, I went, “Fine! Sod off, you jerks, and don’t come back!” and stopped right there. (Evidence of my lack of social advancement and sophistication, I guess!)

  4. The first thing that your d3scription made me wonder, is if that sense that the telepathic Vardeshi are superior is something they are constantly (maybe subconsciously?) emanating, making everyone around them believe that, because that is how they historically regarded themselves when compared with their own untelepathic minority.
    And that (deeply ingrained) view that their own untelepathic minority is inferior would rather naturally carry over onto other untelepathic alien civilizations they meet – though they might be likely to rationalise away such an obvious bias, by declaring it based on other reasons.

    If Avery manages to break that emanation of superiority, and hold up a mirror to them; and if that then leads to Vardeshi society being confronted with its own biases and failings, and starting to improve as a result, that might make for more interesting reading. But so far it doesn’t sound as if that is where it’s going!

  5. Maigen, yes, the condescendingly superior aliens trope is not something I like at all. But I was engaged by the story at that point!

    Hanneke, that is exactly the kind of thing I wanted to happen, but there was no hint and I gave up.

    Alison, I’m glad she realizes that eventually! Pretty sure I know which one is the love interest. But I’m fairly unlikely to pick it up again, regardless of the blurb for the second book.

  6. Ok, so spoilers!

    The captain *is* the saboteur – he’s being paid by isolationist factions to mess up relations between the species. Everyone is extremely apologetic after.

    I think they do lose their sense of superiority over time, and I liked where the books went overall, but be forewarned it’s actually an unfinished trilogy (although recent Facebook comments indicate the author is working on it again, after a long pandemic-related dry streak, writing-wise)

  7. SarahZ, that is one of the few things that could make me want to go on with the story. But man, these aliens are total jerks in a lot of ways. Very glad to have this spoiler, though!

  8. Yeah, I agree that they don’t have much claim to superiority – they’re just post-scarcity because of more advanced technology. I’m hoping that gets examined more when she’s back on earth and debriefing, but other elements were interesting enough to keep me going with it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top