The Tea Master and the Detective 
by Aliette de Bodard

3.5 stars, actually.  (novella)

On first glance, this far future tale of an outpost on the edge of a “deep space” where currents of unreality can tear a human apart and the mind ships with their metal bodies and human hearts/minds can barely tolerate going would be like catnip to me. The repartee between The Shadow’s Child (mind ship) and her client, Long Chau, should have been enough to keep me immersed. There is also the layered world of avatars in the station, the tea blends the mind ship makes to help humans survive deep space, and a corpse to be retrieved for “scientific study.”

We get a lot of The Shadow Child’s history, and uncover some of Long Chau’s, but I felt like I was missing stuff most of the time. This is a connected story to other of the author’s works, and I wonder if I might have “gotten” this story better if I read the others first. There seemed to be a kind of airy sense of vagueness to the story, and when I would pick it up again I would have to go back and reread several pages to remember what was happening and where they were.

I think that is what kept me from getting fully immersed in the story.

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