I’ve been thinking about reading this series ever since I was suggested it by Brian from Books of Brian and read his review of the last book in the series. I’m 99.7% sure that he’s no longer active, but that doesn’t mean I forgot about his suggestion or post.
Author: Yoon Ha Lee
I got this one from my library because I went seeking another book, then saw these and was like, “Heh, now I don’t have to buy them. Suckers.”
First, I really enjoyed reading this. I think it was becuase the tension was always high, and I thought it felt like a lot of good modern sci-fi. There were concepts I liked – like the Black Cradle form of immortality – and Cheris was a great character to follow. The fact that the book was enjoyable as long as I shut my brain off means that I did like reading it at times. However, there were elements that I typically don’t like.
On the back of the book, one of the reviewers said this book is “Starship Troopers meets Apocalypse Now – and they’ve put Kurtz in charge… An unmissable debut.”
That was probably too accurate.
This book felt a lot like Starship Troopers, which I found to be just OK. And Apocalypse Now is a bit too on the nose. This book was basically a mashup of those two stirred together with the worst science fiction I’ve ever read. I have no idea why the author even thought it a good idea to go with a far-future feel rather than high fantasy, because the “calendrical” stuff was more like magic than science. When there needed to be any explanations of what was going on, the pages would explode with a wall of word salad that would confuse anyone. The word salad was there to confuse you and distract you from the fact that no, none of this makes any sense whatsoever. It’s magic fueled by religion, no science anywhere, no matter how much math they say is involved.
The villains never, not even once, made any sense. I never got the feeling that they presented any real danger, because even the intercepted messages from Vh indicated they were always losing. The twist at the end about who Shuos Jedao really was not only didn’t take me by surprise, but it felt like a total letdown because I couldn’t agree with him on many aspects.
Overall, it was a fun read, but I really think it felt more like an anime than it should have. There were lots of “formations” and weird names of ships and formations that made me think someone was going to shout “HADOKENNNNN!!!!” any second. However, the problems I had with the book were too big to really overcome, and the walls of word salad put it over the edge.
3/5 Discoball Snowcones
I thought the plot of the book was mostly ok. Kel Cheris, a soldier, is strangely good at math and is manipulated by a spy into becoming anchored to an undead general (i.e. she hears a voice and sees a shadow no one else can). The mechanisms of that were interesting, but like all the other “sci-fi” elements in this book, it was bullsh*t and full of word salad. They made a big deal out of Jedao being insane and a traitor, but one too useful to put to death for good.
Anyway, they got her attached to General Jedao and they went and basically whipped up on their enemy. Kel Nerevor was a rival with Cheris for a while, but then became suddenly subservient when beaten in calendrical sword dueling, then was captured and not heard from again. I was sorely disappointed in that whole sequence.
As mentioned in the non-spoiler review, the bad guys never felt like a real threat. Cheris kept feeling down when her men would get killed, but there were weird soldier-focused-viewpoints that showed they didn’t care because they were Kel, the disposables. Even when the amputation gun (it was magic, don’t let this book fool you) came up, I was like “This is trumped up because the enemy shouldn’t have waited until they were invaded to do this.” The weapons escalated in a nonsense fashion that I found anime-like.
Toward the end, Jedao and Cheris are backstabbed by their government, and Cheris eats his soul in order to become Jedao+Cheris combined. It’s revealed that Jedao became a traitor because he didn’t like the government, and I was like, “Uh, duh.” The “twist” was both obvious and had only been a twist because Jedao hadn’t told Cheris before. I hate twists that shouldn’t be twists, twists that are just because one ally wouldn’t tell the other person what was going on.
Anyway, it ended with a resolution to go after the immortal leader of the hexarchate/empire, and I was like, “This is Ancillary Justice, just not done as well.”
Well, there’s another book in this series, and I’m just crazy enough to keep going despite the first being just fun without much reason behind liking it! Onward to Raven Stratagem!