This 640(!)-page book was elegantly written, but a slow read for me. Vagabonds centers around ideas and social and political themes, rather than plot or its characters. However, what it lacked in conflict and action it made up with its world-building, especially the technologies, architecture, and systems of Mars. (Hao studied physics and economics, and it shows!)
While Vagabonds offers the perspectives of multiple characters, I felt disconnected from them. The main character, Luoying, who is the granddaughter of Mars’ consul, feels especially lost and confused, and sets out to learn the truth behind her parents’ mysterious deaths. Rather than being a suspenseful storyline, it’s more of a contemplative journey, albeit a little too drawn out. Perhaps the character that will stay with me the most is Reini, whose very understanding of the system results in his life within the system as an outlier.
Although it's not the kind of book that I'd normally gravitate towards, I'm deeply appreciative that Ken Liu has made this thought-provoking book accessible to English-language readers.