"Emissaries From The Dead" discussion

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"Emissaries From The Dead" discussion

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Mrz. 15, 2010, 11:16am

The usual thread for us to discuss Adam-Troy Castro's Emissaries From The Dead

Mrz. 15, 2010, 12:14pm

So does this mean we're settled on it for sure?

Mrz. 15, 2010, 12:27pm

I don't know for sure - but the poll has looked very stable for a number of days.

Mrz. 18, 2010, 12:15pm

I decided to start reading it and about 1/3 into it so far. I like mysteries so it turned out to be two-for-one for me. Plenty of sf elements as well. Entertaining world building. Very readable and engaging writing style. Good pacing. More later. Oh - my only real quibble so far is not seeing why the human habitats had to be so uncomfortable. Even if there was some (as yet unexplained) reason they needed to appear organic from the outside, there would be many ways to include a solid flat floor in the interiors. Small thing among many good things.

Mrz. 18, 2010, 2:01pm

I've finished the book so I try and keep the messages at the start quite general and non-spoilery.

Yeah I thought the world-building was pretty good as well. Overall I liked the main character too which is a bonus. Some of the supporting characters aren't quite as fleshed out as I would like. I think that it was quite clear that Castro was setting up a universe to act as a playground for his heroine and that we will see her again in future books.

Mrz. 18, 2010, 3:59pm

Hopefully no one thinks my housing comment to be spoilery....it is described within the first few pages of the book. But I agree, about restricting comments. I could have said more, but I'll wait until it looks like people are coming to the thread having finished the book. :-)

Mrz. 18, 2010, 6:43pm

I've started it as well and find the AIsource concept quite intriguing, and just now discovered how the title fits in, which I found a real surprise, and a pleasant one!

Mrz. 19, 2010, 7:58am

Got hold of my copy of the book today, and will, hopefully, be reading it sometime this week or next.

Mrz. 22, 2010, 9:26pm

I finshed the book this evening and I look forward to a discussion. The fact I'm posting this here says something. Usually I'm so slow that the discussion is done and over by the time I finish a group book!

Mrz. 22, 2010, 11:19pm

I've finished the book too, and thought it a good read. I'll discuss it later when more people have actually read the book.

Bearbeitet: Mrz. 23, 2010, 5:30pm

Great! I'll order my copy today, should have it finished by the weekend.

Mrz. 28, 2010, 11:17am

Picked up my copy yesterday, should finish it in a couple of days.

Mrz. 28, 2010, 12:34pm

Done - and i enjoyed this one a good deal. Not so much for the SF, as for the characters. But the SF setting proved an excellent setting for a very good and culturally complex mystery.

Mrz. 28, 2010, 8:40pm

Picked my book up today at Mysterious Galaxy, Borders not having it (and I only went there first because I had a 40% off coupon). Will start reading it tonight. Bob, your comments make me look forward to it.

Mrz. 29, 2010, 4:15pm

I just picked up my copy today, I look forward to starting it tonight.

Apr. 1, 2010, 1:17am

Well, my copy arrived today and I have started it. I am going to speculate that the murders/genocide in the prologue which defines the main character is due to some outside influence - posssilby connected to the current plot. So far, the book really does deliver on atmosphere; I am finding it genuinely creepy and unsettling.

Apr. 1, 2010, 11:29am

I read this a year or two ago, and at the time did not care for it, but a reread had me liking it a bit more. I am still mulling over some of the concepts from the book, and I am looking forward to hearing how others found the characters and story.

Apr. 1, 2010, 1:38pm

I just finished the book. I really enjoyed it, but for some reason I was confused about the habitat and how it worked. I think that I finally figured it out.

Apr. 1, 2010, 10:45pm

Finished today! I also was a bit confused about the habitat, but I liked the book well enough that it didn't hold me back, and it was pretty good about explaining what bits were important when they were important.

I found the beginning - the introduction to our heroine - intensely creepy and unsettling, and really enjoyed the mystery.

Apr. 2, 2010, 10:49am

I finished last night, so am ready to discuss.

Apr. 2, 2010, 11:21am

I read the book in 10/09. I thought it was a good if bumpy read, though the writing didn't really flow well for me.

I have book 2, The Third Claw of God but have not rushed to read it.

Apr. 2, 2010, 3:33pm

#19 - I too found the genocidal introduction really creepy and since the narrator made such a point of telling us that these people didn't usually behave this way, I thought that there may be an explanation forthcoming as to why. And, the heroine seems very guilty about her past actions - most of all that she enjoyed it. I have to wonder just what is going on with this.

Apr. 3, 2010, 7:32am

i guess i wondered why our heroine felt so guilty about having been coerced into a heinous crime as a young child...and why,having been coerced into patricide unwittingly, why the rest of the "civilized" universe regarded her as such a moral misbegotten.

Apr. 3, 2010, 8:12am

I can better understand how she felt about it. She admits she enjoyed it at some level and that creeps her out. It makes her doubt herself and see herself as a monster. But I do have some difficulties with the authorities who label her and call her a monster. Granted, it was horrible, but if the entire colony had gone mad, why take it all out on a little girl.

I admit, though, society today tends to treat children who are really too young to have the cognitive abilities to make moral decisions as adults so who knows...

But that set up gave the story depth and created a level of confusion based on her distrusting herself that made you doubt her observations and conclusions.

Apr. 3, 2010, 9:29am

I can definitely understand her own guilt. In our own society psychologists tell us young child can sometimes feel guilt and responsibility if a parent leaves or dies. Whether this stays on into adulthood, I don't know. If she enjoyed it, that would have to mess with a kids head further, even if it was out of her control.

I agree, it's a little harder to understand society's evaluation of her. Perhaps, at the time, it was poorly understood what had happened. Maybe murder is much less common. It was less convincing, but I could buy it - society can be very irrational.

I agree it gave the story both a creepiness and a depth. For some reason though, it led me to believe her observations more rather than less. Something about her being apart and an outsider. It, correctly or not, made me feel she could more objectively evaluate a situation she was never a part of.

Overall, I thought her attitude made sense. She wasn't totally screwed up, just fearful of getting too close to other people.

Apr. 3, 2010, 10:11am

I didn't really see any creepiness. I found the dangling of the incomplete story throughout the book annoying.

I agree she would feel guilt, but also thought it odd that the authorities also branded her.

Apr. 3, 2010, 10:49am

I don't think the creepiness continued through the novel, just the prologue. I do agree that the authorities seemed harsh, unless they completely didn't understand what had happened.

What I didn't understand was why the human housing was designed in such an uncomfortable fashion. They brought the habitats with them, so why didn't they design in flat floors? Even if they were supposed to look organic from the outside for some reason, this wouldn't mean they had to be so uncomfortable inside. Plus, if they can gather the resouces to send a huge ship to a far away place, why can't they afford portapotties for the habitats. I know these features helped the author to establish the outpost as precarious, but these features seemed arbitrarily uncomfortable.

Apr. 3, 2010, 10:57am

I think my lack of 'creep' has to do with my not really having a connection to the characters. They seemed OK but I didn't really care about any of them.

I did have a connection when he finally explained the story and you saw the events before and after the massacre through the eyes of the little girl. That wasn't creepy to me, just really, really sad.

Apr. 3, 2010, 11:13am

It was more the social branding that didn't make sense to me. But, that aside - and given that it effectively made her an outsider able to bring a clearheaded, if jaundiced, POV to solving the puzzle/crime, that bit of a priori unreasonableness (sic) didn't bother me. I very much liked the interacting social systems - getting to see inter and intra human/AI/Brachiators behaviors.

Apr. 3, 2010, 11:23am

Well, I was using Anastaia's word for it, but creepy did seem to fit well enough for me. I'll give any scene involving mass murders at least that much, hehe. Or maybe horrific.

I don't think any of the characters were particularly likeable, but that didn't matter for me. It's almost like I was another person working off their time in this strange environment, watching. I wasn't terribly connected to any of them, but I was interested in the goings on as long as I was stuck there. This makes it sound like I didn't like the book, when quite the opposite is true.

I did feel some sympathy for the outpost's leader, feeling he got a bit of a bum rap. Oddly, I just realize that my image of him was very similar to the picture of the author on my copy of the book.

Apr. 3, 2010, 12:30pm

why take it all out on a little girl.

Because they didn't know what caused the massacre. For a long time after the massacre that little girl would have been kept 'safe' and studied in very controlled circumstances as she grew up into the woman we see. In the kind of universe depicted in the novel that would then mean a massive debt which would have required a massive indenture to pay off. One might say that the Diplomatic Services used the massacre to form Andrea Cort in to the person they wanted and also put her in the position of always having to work for them. They were getting a very useful tool.

I think the universe depicted where nearly everyone was indentured (I think it was everyone we saw) was interesting and certainly at odds with a lot of previous SF.

Apr. 5, 2010, 10:43am

Since everyone has started commenting on the book now, I thought "Emissaries of the Dead" was decent as an SF novel. There were some interesting ideas - the gestalt consciousness, the artificially-created sentient race, and several other ideas - and the universe the story is set in was interesting, if not entirely believeable. The main character was interesting, although I did not enjoy how what made her interesting, particularly that she was a sociopath, was negated in the latter part of the story, in order to make her more sympathetic.

What was less enjoyable was the detective novel aspect of the story, which was only interesting in that it led to more SF ideas. But then, there are very few detective novels/shows/movies that I enjoy, as the formulaic and cliched nature of detective stories bores me rather quickly.

Apr. 5, 2010, 10:48am

Wondering what the general consensus is here as to starting a new SF nominations thread - it does take a while to get through the process, and I suspect most of our group does not want to wait for a long time between group reads. On the other hand, I also suspect that most readers want to have a good and proper discussion of the current book at hand without being distracted by a new book nomination.

Bearbeitet: Apr. 5, 2010, 11:27am

I'm good with starting another voting thread. I'd also at the outset state a deadline for the poll phases. Give it plenty of time, but that way people can participate in each phase and then just ignore the whole thing until the next phase. Would beat constantly checking to see if the next phase had started. However, I'm fine with whatever pleases most people.

I'd also be interested in knowing if anyone can think of a reason for the uncomfortable housing as I described in post #27, beyond helping the author establish the situation as precarious.

Apr. 5, 2010, 11:32am


Well it was a controlled environment. Humans weren't allowed all their high-tech toys. Presumably the uncomfortable housing was also a condition set down by the AISource anything else being deemed too disruptive.

Apr. 5, 2010, 12:29pm

#35, sure, I could get they don't want disruptive. I could even get that externally the housing should blend into the environment. What seemed silly to me was the lack of flat floors. Even I could easily see how one could suspend one of this curvy pods and then inside it suspend a flat floor. Also, if there wasn't any issue with "going" directly outside your pod, I don't see how some more discrete arrangement near or in each pod would be an issue.

I was willing to overlook this whole thing and enjoyed the worldbuilding and the story a lot. Still, I could see no reason. If the AISource had provided the housing, maybe I could see it, but these people brought these uncomfortable abodes with them!

Apr. 5, 2010, 9:11pm

we never really did learn what the AISource was after in creating the entire environment. At least I didn't pick up on it.

Apr. 5, 2010, 10:38pm

#32 I also didn't like how they negated the guilt thing at the end. This would change her personality, which to me did not make sense since this was book one of a series. And why they went to the trouble to show that her boss was trying to help her with precedent rather than hurt her seemed kind of irrelevant since that relationship was not very developed. However, I guess both of those things had to do with the setup for her future working conditions. No more Harry Callahan, "I don't need a partner. I prefer to work alone."

It seemed to me that the AIsource was trying to make the conditions very difficult for the humans so that they could study them studying the Brachiators.

What I did not understand, and probably because I don't really understand computers, was how there could be a rogue element of the AIsource.

However, I do like detective stories and once I understood the habitat I enjoyed the story quite a bit. Interesting that the part beneath was not really important to the story. I kept thinking that part of making the upperstory so difficult was to hide what was going on below. But that did not seem to be the case.

Apr. 6, 2010, 6:54am


Setting up dates in advance sounds like a good idea. I do try to make the effort to notify people as to what is happening here on the "Science Fiction Fans" forum, because I understand checking this group to find nothing has happend can be frustrating.


The AISource was studying artificially-developed sentient races, and found that they had experiences, thoughts and beliefs beyond the intentions behind their creation.


The AISource was comprised of many races of sentient AI, at odds with eachother as to how to deal with biological races.

Bearbeitet: Apr. 6, 2010, 9:18am

#38 It seemed to me that the AIsource was trying to make the conditions very difficult for the humans so that they could study them studying the Brachiators.

Sounds like as good a theory as any. I never really felt this was fully explained. Then again, the AIsource was described as playing god, so no explanations necessary, I suppose. It still doesn't explain why the humans, who brought their own habitat with them, would choose to bring something so uncomfortable. I'm ok with the idea that the AISourse told them what kind of habitat they had to bring, but that isn't stated in the novel.

The most I gleaned for as an explanation of the whole set-up by the AISouce was that the main part of the AISource was trying to find a way to commit suicide, while the other faction was trying to find a way to live. Interesting idea, although it hardly seems to explain all the behaviors of the AISource. I did find it very provocative to have a single entity have parts that wanted to live and parts that wanted to die. How often are we ourselves "of two minds" about something, and then have to work through it to a resolution.

Apr. 6, 2010, 10:39am

#39 The AISource was studying artificially-developed sentient races, and found that they had experiences, thoughts and beliefs beyond the intentions behind their creation.>>

See, I don't really buy that as the real reason. THey could easily have created a sentient race on any planet and done the same thing. So why create an entire biosphere and especially why did they hide so much from the humans staying there. Much was made of how secretive the lower depths were.

Apr. 6, 2010, 12:47pm

If you follow Andrea's reasoning, then besides studying what makes a sentient race, the habitat is specifically designed to draw in humans to recruit, and most specifically Andrea herself.

Very interesting habitat, exploration of the Brachiators as a culture. I get tired of the "wounded warrior" trope, but so much of literature uses it as a basis of a story that I can't complain too much. I do have less tolerance when a male writer does it to a female character, though. I did think the resolution of her "complex" by the AIsource was rather facile.

Overall, though, it was an enjoyable read.

Apr. 6, 2010, 4:08pm

I am fine with starting a new voting thread and discussion of the next book while we discuss this book. As long as sufficient time is given to both the discussion of the current book and discussion of the possibilities for the next book, I don't see why it should be a problem. As others have said, as long as a deadline is established, people can either ignore or participate as they choose.

Apr. 6, 2010, 6:09pm

Well I suppose that you could look at it that the AIs were only using the Brachiators as window dressing to draw the humans in, and perhaps study them under stress. Perhaps a way of saying that humans are also a created race ?

Or was the AI just trying to lure Andrea in (setting up a stressful situation, with humans who should have been rotated out, knowing something bad would happen, and then asking for her to be assigned) and then work on her to detach her from her handlers so she could represent them (those that didn't want to die and/or kill her) down the road (future books)?

I thought it was stated at some point that everything from the smallest to the largest items had to be Okayed by the AI before it could be brought into the habitat. Perhaps the humans brought floors, but the AI didn't allow them in ?

I didn't dislike the characters, and I don't have to like them to enjoy a book, but there has to be something that makes them interesting, some connection to them, and for me that was missing for most of the book.

Apr. 19, 2010, 2:45am

I really enjoyed this story. The story started out in a really creepy way that did make me wonder how I was supposed to feel about Andrea. Especially because her present self seemed really capable and strong minded. I think that is why I also had a problem with how quickly she thawed (or maybe there is a better word?) towards the end of the book. It felt a little too convenient. Atleast the unanswered questions about the habitat seemed acceptable because you know she is going to come back to it now that her goal is to find a way to help the AIsource commit suicide. Her new outlook on herself and people just seemed too easy and so it made her attitude at the beginning of the book seem insincere. Overall I liked the mixture of sci-fi and detective story enough to be interested in a sequel. I'm interested to see how the change in her attitude plays out in the future.

Apr. 19, 2010, 7:54am

#45 I agree. She'd been so resistant for all her life to 'therapy' and to allowing herself to trust or get close to anyone, and all the sudden her entire psychology changes.

Granted, the world is something new and different, as are the people, but still, I felt the psychological alterations were far too smooth and quick and not very realistic about the difficult and duration required for such a massive mental growth spurt.