Thursday 4 May 2023

Children of Doro - ML Clark

Children of Doro
ML Clark 
ISBN 9798388114785

Having followed the author for a number of years across numerous social media platforms, this was a volume that has been on my radar for many years. It was thrilling to finally read it. It was fascinating to read a story I have known about for years. And after watching some of the authors Book Talks about it on YouTube I was even more excited to dig in. 

Reading this story was like an epic adventure. In some ways it reminded me of reading Piers Anthony’s Bio of a Space Tyrant series. In other ways it called to mine The Old Man and the Void, by Karina Fabian. Also to some extend Tin Star by Cecil Castellicci. The story being told by an AI, and an AI that was involved with the events was an interesting twist. I highly recommend readers read the end notes either at the time of reading the story, or once finished. There is a significant amount of information across these footnotes. The description of the book states:

“Have you ever made a ship's AI proud? Really, truly proud?

Captain Alastri has.

She's a child of Doro, a frontier world governed by a temperamental AI that represents the thoughts and feelings of all its citizens.

Never heard of it? Well, it did get destroyed, which is where her ship's AI steps in, to regale us with how Alastri's past led directly to this catastrophe.

When Alastri was 17, she witnessed a failed mediation between the ever-wronged citizen Ceres and Doro's governing AI. That day didn't just reveal a range of competing philosophies. It also led to treason, the loss of her ship, and the destruction of her home 25 years on.

Connecting the dots from that day is the only way Alastri can hope to prevent further disaster for her system. And yes, this she does, most splendidly—at least, if you can believe a ship's ridiculously proud AI.”

The author stated:

“This novel is inspired by The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. You don't need to have read that volume to understand this story, but like its highly philosophical source, Children of Doro was written with a POV that you don't often see today: polyphonic narration. This means that our narrator is both an active presence in the text, and also a third-person omniscience recording all sorts of conversations from scenes in which it is not personally present. Consider yourselves warned!”

I myself have not read Dostoevsky in over 30 years. And it is absolutely not a prerequisite for reading this novel. There is certainly a sense of melancholy throughout the story. Also a sense of not fitting in, and at times not being aware of that gap. In many ways a felt a deep connection to the story, a sense of being fundamentally flawed, and broken, set apart, of being on the outside looking in. From the story there is a sense not of not being good enough, but not being enough. And I am sure those words fail the sense. 

The story is epic in the expanse of the worlds created, of the different governing bodies, the AI’s that are composites of the collection at different points in time. The world of Doro and its impact upon its citizens, and all who are pulled into its sphere of influence. The story spans generations. And they history and mythology space space and time. 

The story leaves me wanting more in this universe. And I understand there are some previously published pieces in Clark states in the authors note:

“I am deeply thankful, too, to Neil Clarke, the editor of Clarkesworld, for having encouraged me to continue developing stories around the compact in this novel, the Partnership that first shows up in “To Catch All Sorts of Flying Things” (2019). Short fiction is a wonderful incubator for grand ideas, and that was certainly the case here.”

And I hope we will see other stories set in this world. I must admit sitting here after having finished this story there is a void, a hollowness. A sense of incompleteness, not in the story but in my life having read the story. It is a story that will cause you to think and reflect. It is a science fiction story writ large. It is a story I can recommend, but be clear that the reader will not be the same once they have finished it. It is an epic science fiction story masterfully written. 

Books by M.L. Clark:
The Bitter Sweet Here and After - Short Story
Uncle Remy's Whizz-Bang Circus
Game of Primes
Fat of the Land
The Shape of Things to Come
The Stars, Their Faces Uplifted in Song

Then Raise the Dead Man High
The Shadow & The Shadow

The Menagerie Mysteries:
The Stars, At Last Count
Wildly Runs The Dying Sun

K-City Kink Sisters:
Lacing Up To Reality - Short Story
One For The Team - Short Story

Contributed to:
Bastion Issue #6 September 2014
Lightspeed: Year One
Lightspeed Magazine, March 2011
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2017

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June 2013
Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March 2014
Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2015

Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 199
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 193
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 181
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 173
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 165
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 162
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 156
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 123
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 92
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 86
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 80
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 74

Works translated by M.L. Clark:
The Marquise of Yolombo - Tomás Carrasquilla

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