Queen of Roses

By Elizabeth McCoy

Rating: 3 stars

I got this book as part of the 2019 feminist future story bundle, and it was the excerpt from this book that honestly sold the whole bundle to me. Sarafina is an AI, until recently working for a bank, which has now gone into administration. Her tenure is sold to the owner of a cruise ship, and she finds herself installed as the main passenger interface AI on the Queen of Roses. Here she has to deal with people on a regular basis, including passengers, crew and a drunkard, intolerant captain. Add a bunch of stowaways into the mix and it’s not exactly an easy first cruise for her.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot, but looking back at it, I do think it could have done with another pass from an editor, especially towards the end, as the plot started to ramp up, and I’m not sure that McCoy kept hold of all the threads all properly. There were some minor things (such as the specifically mentioned handed salutes between two characters) and some less minor things (such as how did Mrs Selsda get hold of Sarafina’s programming key?), but in general I liked both Sarafina herself, and Pilot, the other AI on the ship. The “biologicals” were a mixed bunch, who mostly played to type: the drunkard captain; the roguish first officer; the competent engineer, but were all decent characters.

I liked how McCoy showed us how Sarafina split her attention amongst her myriad tasks, something that can’t be easy to imagine or describe given that humans can’t split our attention amongst more than a handful of tasks. I thought the world-building could have been improved. We didn’t get any real impression of how the galaxy is organised, or about the Xanadu system or why it was a threat, not to mention more about Keevey and Keelin. And most importantly for me, no real discussion of the ethics of (even temporary) enslavement of sentient creatures. Yes, the AIs can work their way out of debt, but it still feels icky to me. We don’t make our children pay back the cost of their creation and raising, after all, why should we do that for an AI? I can totally believe that it would happen, but it would have been nice to get at treatment of it in the book.

The prejudice against AIs, on the other hand, requires no leap of the imagination to believe, but I’m glad that the opposite was there as well. The relationship between the free AI Loren and Mr Corvhey was quite sweet.

An enjoyable, if flawed, romp with a very likeable lead character, and bonus points for that lead being very both female and very believably non-human.

Book details

ISBN: 9781476412122
Publisher: Smashwords
Year of publication: 2012

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