RogerBW's Blog

Revenant Gun, Yoon Ha Lee 10 May 2019

2018 Hugo-nominated science fiction, third in a trilogy. The last thing Shuos Jedao remembers is being seventeen… but now he's been woken into a much older body, and apparently the Hexarch Nirai Kujen is relying on his military skills to reassemble the shattered empire. But Kujen, as always, is playing a very deep game…

Even more than the second book, don't try to start the trilogy here. You really need to know who Jedao is to get the same sense of haunting wrongness that he gets by knowing that he has missing memories. And what about Cheris? Ah yes, she's still out there too…

No one had shot at him yet, so he risked standing up. Paradoxically, that made him warier. He knew what to do about bullets and fire and smoke.

All right, I really enjoyed Cheris/Jedao as a viewpoint character in the first book. This one moves around rather more, starting with an alternation new Jedao, High General Kel Brezan (trying to hold together one of the broken fragments of the Hexarchate), and Hemiola (an AI servitor swept up in the trail of Cheris), but later dropping Brezan (while I thought he had more to say) and bringing in some others. It's a shade too loose, in a story with a lot to say which I thought would have been better for being rather tighter.

Similarly feeling out of place is a sexual angle which, while it's significant in terms of the personalities of the people involved and the situations they're in, seems dissonant compared with the earlier books.

"I've brought you your aide," he said. "Major Kel Dhanneth. I thought this would be a good time to make you a gift of him."

The major's expression didn't waver, but Jedao said, "Kujen, I'm not sure people are gifts?"

"As idealistic as ever," Kujen said fondly. "Suit yourself."

There's good stuff here, but it feels as though it doesn't go far enough. The situation with the servitors (still assumed by most to be non-sapient, but some of them are rebelling) is just ignored towards the end, as is the situation with the mothdrive ships, and the invading aliens are barely mentioned except as a minor side issue. I don't know whether Lee is planning to continue these narratives in short stories or future novels (his next novel, Dragon Pearl, is a fantasy, but there's a forthcoming collection Hexarchate Stories that I'll be looking out for), but I felt that they were not sufficiently explored in this last volume of the series… especially when I compare it with another last volume of an SF trilogy, Ancillary Mercy. That didn't end all its narratives, but it got them all to satisfactory stopping-points rather than just dropping them.

No one shot Jedao in the back on the way out, always a plus. Perhaps word had gotten around that it wouldn't do any good.

I'm also slightly unhappy that the story, an effective one of rebellion against tyranny, ends up falling in part into the modern fallacy that it's just fine for someone to have tyrannical powers if he's a good person; you can tell us all you like that a certain character is nothing to worry about, but by the end he could still become a tyrant just by deciding to. That's another strand that feels under-explored.

Still. I enjoyed it; not as much as the first book, with its perfect balance of things that appeal to a Roger, but more than the second.

This work was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

See also:
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
Raven Stratagem, Yoon Ha Lee

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