Sunday, February 19, 2012

Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey (Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham)

Leviathan Wakes was really, really good.

It's billed as space opera instead of hard sf, but the sciencey parts simultaneously made me happy and bummed me out, in an I-will-never-be-able-to-write-anything-this-good sort of way. The authors didn't blaze new trails in Science Gimmicks; they mostly took known space science and addressed how human behavior would change if you had to live with that all the time.

Space dwellers don't have a habit of nodding, for example; because you can't see that through a space suit, they use hand gestures instead. They disagree with dirtsiders on whether air and water are considered renewable resources - and that's the spark of the war, when one of the Belt's ice haulers gets blown up by an unknown-but-probably-Martian ship.

There are two point-of-view characters in the story; Holden, an Earthborn survivor of that ice hauler, and Miller, a spaceborn noir-style detective. I wasn't especially interested in Miller until he offered up his opinion of Holden's public broadcasting of what happened to his ship: "He just declared war on Mars for us." In the Belt, Miller explains, people don't fuck around when it comes to the resources one needs to survive. You do a half-ass job on critical station maintenance, you're likely to get airlocked; shoot down a ship carrying water for the Belt, and the Belt shoots back.

I'm kind of down with that. Miller's practical cynicism appealed to me, even though I wasn't interested in the space detective shtick at first. The more Miller scoffed, the less I liked Holden's idealistic approach to any crisis at hand. Although the authors write, in the afterword, that they meant Miller and Holden to be at the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum on how they deal with bad guys - discreet airlocking versus information-wants-to-be-free negotiations - with both characters being right, and both being wrong, it seemed to me that Miller's approach was more right than Holden's. Or, at least, more effective in these particular circumstances.

This is also the kind of book that I think my husband would really enjoy (also because of Miller - I think my appreciation for that sort of brutally effective badassery came from my husband originally), but loaning it to him is difficult because I only have the one Kindle, and I selfishly want to keep it to read more books. I'm probably going to wind up buying a print copy to shove into his hands.


Kindle DRM pisses me off. DRM is not the reason loaning this book to my husband is difficult - the lack of a second e-reader is. BUT. My cousin has a Kindle, and so do my sisters. I can't loan the book to them, either; the publisher has disallowed loaning on this title. That's the case for almost all the e-books I've bought so far. And the few that I can loan, I can only loan once - if I lend it to my cousin, then I can't lend it to my sisters when she returns it.

I could also froth at the mouth about mandating that only one person can access the book at a time, which is unavoidable in print but an artificial restriction in e-, but I won't (much). I can almost see it being a reasonable precaution for transitioning into an e-book economy, even though crippling the greatest strength of the format - increased access - pisses me off. I suppose a one-person-at-a-time, limited-term loan is how they distinguish between a loan and an unpaid permanent gift.

But I find the once-or-not-at-all loan limit unforgivable. Why can't I loan it to as many people as I like, just as in print? Why is there a restriction on exposing more people to the material, to tempt them into buying their own forever-copies, or other books by the same author? That's just stupid. Do they think all my friends will just buy all my favorite books on my say-so, because I like them? Do they think I'm willing to buy a new copy for every friend I want to make read the book? Stupid. And I can't even count how many books I bought because somebody introduced them - or their author - to me through a loan. I'm sure it's most of my library. There is no way they're making more money by restricting loans than they would be by enabling them. It's idiocy, and it's offensive.

So until the loaning policies change, I'll be making an extra effort to buy in print - or DRM-free from non-Amazon sources, if available - for anything I suspect I'll want to share with my family.

Of course, I could resolve this whole issue if I were to just break the DRM and pass on the file anyway. Ironic, that these supposed anti-piracy measures are the only things that actually tempt me to piracy.

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