|The fact that Provenance's|
wasted potential angered
us is proof that Ann Leckie
had us engaged to begin with.
(Image via Goodreads.com)
But the fact that so many people in our book club were so upset about these unsatisfactory resolutions shows that author Ann Leckie was doing something right. Each and every one of our book club members were engaged with the narrative enough that it kept us wanting more than it delivered.
Despite being set in the same universe as her previous trilogy of best-sellers, Provenance is a significant departure for Leckie, in terms of subject matter, themes and style. In fact, the connections to the Ancillary trilogy are tenuous enough that one wonders what was gained by reusing the same setting.
Comedy of Manners
Drawing on the traditions of the British farce, Provenance introduces the reader to an aristocratic
|The provenance of items in museums|
is a very interesting question to examine,
and one that science fiction has rarely
tackled. It's a rich subject that Leckie
only scratches the surface of.
(Image via argumentative archaologist)
For the first hundred pages, many of us couldn’t put the book down — Aughskold’s hair-brained scheme to break a convicted forger out of prison is engaging. The ways in which this plot careens off the rails — the wrong convict, the ornery captain, her financial woes — are a lot of fun to read.
Set in the classist, pompous, and high-protocol society of Hwei, the story involves the provenance of historical artifacts that may or may not be forgeries. Questions of authenticity and of the validity of historical power structures are hinted at, but not fully developed.
And unfortunately, the novel splinters as the scope of the story widens. From the intimate struggles of Aughskold to the large-scale galactic intrigues and interspecies politicking, the plot jumps forward in awkward and haphazard ways. Adventures that are foreshadowed are dropped without notice.
The mistaken identity of the convict? Nope, he’s just who he was supposed to be in the first place
|If they make a movie of|
Provenance, Hugh Laurie
should play all the upper
(Image via BBC.com)
There’s so much to love in this book, so much to be disappointed in. Were this the debut novel from a new author, one might have suggested that it shows an enormous potential, but we already know Leckie is capable of greatness, so this cannot help but be a let-down.
Leckie’s fourth novel drew a larger crowd to our book club than usual and it is rare for us to have had such unanimity amongst the opinions expressed. None of us placed it at the top of our Hugo Award ballots, but none of us had it at the bottom either.
Some at the book club meeting suggested that Provenance might have been better served if it were pared down in length and modified slightly for the Young Adult market. The protagonist, her sunny disposition and inherent goodness all seem well-suited to the YA market, as does the relatively linear narrative structure.
Leckie has built up a lot of goodwill based on the quality of her previous novels — that goodwill, and the unfulfilled potential of the ideas at the core of Provenance may be enough to get her a second rocketship.