Translation State by Ann Leckie

Qven was created to be a Presger translator. The pride of their Clade, they always had a clear path before them: learn human ways, and eventually, make a match and serve as an intermediary between the dangerous alien Presger and the human worlds. The realization that they might want something else isn't "optimal behavior". I's the type of behavior that results in elimination.

But Qven rebels. And in doing so, their path collides with those of two others. Enae, a reluctant diplomat whose dead grandmaman has left hir an impossible task as an inheritance: hunting down a fugitive who has been missing for over 200 years. And Reet, an adopted mechanic who is increasingly desperate to learn about his genetic roots—or anything that might explain why he operates so differently from those around him.

As a Conclave of the various species approaches—and the long-standing treaty between the humans and the Presger is on the line—the decisions of all three will have ripple effects across the stars. 

Masterfully merging space adventure and mystery, and a poignant exploration about relationships and belonging, Translation State is a triumphant new standalone story set in the celebrated Imperial Radch universe. 

YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 422 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Science Fiction

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s), Genderqueer/Nonbinary Main Character(s).

TRANSLATION STATE is best read after the Imperial Radch trilogy and PROVENANCE, as some of the worldbuilding details reveal conclusions to situations encountered in those books. That being said, TRANSLATION STATE is a self-contained story which delves into the Presger in a manner beyond the scope of the previous stories. The series as a whole focuses on questions of personhood and community, different ways people can be connected, and ways that identity can be complicated by, or unrelated to, one’s physical form.

I continue to be impressed with the worldbuilding in this series. This explains thing things about the Presger Translators which are completely consistent with events in previous books, making it clear that much of the underlying situation had been thought out well in advance. I love it when an author clearly has already figured out their world at a level of detail that I usually don’t have to worry about as a reader. The internal consistency is so nice. 

Enae was eir grandmaman's caretaker, but grandmaman is dead, and Enae is sent to find a Presger Translator who has been missing for 200 years. No one expects e to find them, but e wants to do a good job anyway. 

Qven is meant to mate and become a Preger Translator; all of their development has been aimed at this goal. An incident leaves them altered in a way that the adults do not find acceptable, and their life is in jeopardy. If they cannot be useful, then they will never mate and they will die. One of the translators hopes to salvage the situation by making Qven merge with a newly discovered juvenile who grew up among humans. 

Reet is adopted, just like his many siblings, but he’s always seemed odd to other people. His thoughts are filled with entrails and viscera, he desires to pull and tear to see the gorey insides of those around him. As part of some attempt at belonging, Reet ends up assigned to escort Enae around when they visit following the centuries old trail of the missing translator.

I like the three main characters, they comprise a great trio of perspectives. Even though their initial proximity is forced, I like the way Qven and Reet interact. They fit well with each other, and I hope to get more of them in future books. 

While not a direct sequel, this provides a lot of information about the Presger Translators, details which explain several things from the previous books. The main storyline is entirely new, introducing and resolving the assorted troubles of the three main characters. There are various background details in this book, and the previous ones which will likely require several more stories to fully resolve, so I would be very surprised if this is intended to be the final book. Someone could quite easily start here and have a very satisfying reading experience: the kinds of things which are explained in detail are no better or worse of an entry point to the series, other than that they canonically happened after the previous four books. I can’t think of anything important that was explained enough detail to feel like a spoiler for someone who begins here and then later goes back for the other books. 

Things I love, in no particular order: Qven's descriptions of growing up; the way the Presger Translators seem to have conflated being human with being Radchai – particularly the way that understanding shapes which humans ceremonies they practice.

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  • THE ARCHIVE UNDYING by Emma Mieko Candon

Graphic/Explicit CW for body horror.

Moderate CW for racism, xenophobia, misgendering, grief, gore, blood, vomit, confinement, violence, police brutality, injury detail, cannibalism, torture, death.

Minor CW for sexual content, sexual harassment, sexual assault, vomit, fire, toxic relationship, emotional abuse, war.

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