Elizabeth Bear
Dust Cover



The book at first seems to exist in the space between science fiction and fantasy. The opening scene could almost come out of a pseudo-historical medievaloid fantasy - there's a Lady, there are knights, a housekeeper, a named sword, and our point of view character is an upstairs maid. But look at it more closely and you see the science fiction - nanotech chains, references to extruded material, beam weapons. The literal blue blood for the Family (the Exalt, the aristocracy of this world) could go in either camp at this point. Reading on it becomes more clear that this is science fiction - the story is set on a generation ship, a spaceship travelling at slower than light speed where the crew are awake and expecting their voyage to take several generations to complete. But something has gone wrong, and the ship isn't travelling any more and hasn't been for centuries. A lot (most?) of the crew are Means - they don't have nanotech symbionts and their lifespans are what we would consider normal. The Exalt are effectively immortal, and so the older ones were alive before the disaster. You might naively think that would make it easier to keep society together and work on fixing the ship. But the Family are split into factions and in many cases more concerned with their internal political games than worrying about anything else. This isn't helped by the fact that the ship's AI is also fragmented. With a crisis looming the status quo can't continue, so at least the AI is trying to regroup and gather itselves together. Of course, it isn't that easy - each fragmentary personality wants to be the last one standing and will fight with whatever tools it has to achieve that goal.

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