I read this book about 30-Jan-2011. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2010. This note was last modified Sunday, 27-Mar-2011 18:44:11 PDT.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
I've known of the author on Usenet and elsewhere for years, and I enjoyed his earlier Digital Knight. This one features a woman whose AI assistant manifests as Mentor of Arisia, and a character named Mark C. Duquesne (not, judging from spoiler material I have reviewed, supposed to be somehow the actual fictional character, but a construct made to be that fictional character). How could I not read it?
My first annoyance, in fact, is that the pilot Ariane, who named her AI "Mentor", doesn't blink at the name "Mark C. Duquesne". Perhaps more will become clear as I proceed, but I kind of doubt I'll be finding a satisfactory explanation. (If she doesn't make the correlation, at least the AI ought to.)
Okay, she did in fact notice, she just didn't react. She calls him "Blackie" in private quite a bit later (just after he's been referring to rows of apple trees as a unit of measure, in fact).
They'be beat the Molothos (at extreme odds) in a challenge; but they didn't even know they were in a challenge. They've never asked how challenges are issued or accepted, and what the options are (what happens if you refuse?). Apparently you don't have to accept, since they never accepted a challenge from the Molothos; but this difference from dueling protocol has to raise the issue "how does this work?". And these idiots aren't asking that question, even though they talk with many relatively friendly more-experienced beings who could tell them a lot. For that matter, Orphan ought to just explain it, as part of their introduction to the place.
It becomes pretty clear later that challenges are formal and up front; so this early situation remains anomalous.
But overall this is a very pleasant book, with engaging characters dealing with situations that fall, mostly, within their capabilities.
In the last hundred pages, they keep coming up with new problems, and solving them quickly. Many of them look like they could be the start of new sub-plots, but they're actually disposed of directly. I was finding this amusing.
The Duquesne character is quite well handled, and it's a tricky thing to attempt. He's engineered and trained in a virtual world, and is far superior physically to the Doc Smith character. And he's a somewhat matured version of Duquesne. There are hints that he's got many pots boiling, but not many that he's an actual villain.