RogerBW's Blog

God's War, Kameron Hurley 05 September 2015

2011 SF. Nyx is a bel dame, an assassin tracking down and killing deserters for the government of Nasheen. Then things go wrong. Now she's being employed for a covert recovery mission, but everyone's hand is against her.

The worldbuilding is superb, with multiple oddities coming in from different angles and colliding to produce something really rather interesting. The planet Umayma has been colonised for a few thousand years, and it's a fairly vicious desert; the war between Nasheen and Chenja has been going on for more than a century, and pretty much everyone has spent some time "on the front"; the planet's culture is largely Moslem, with Chenja slightly more traditional but both sides making compromises to cope with the lack of men in their society as the war drags on. And technology is almost entirely organic, based on "bugs", insects and arachnids engineered to do various useful things (though they're more plot-devices than a thought-through technological base). "Magicians" seem to have some degree of pheromonal control over them. Most of this is put over well in the narration, rarely info-dumping but requiring the reader to put a bit of effort into working out what's going on.

These are all fascinating things, and the parts of the book that are picaresque exploration of them are jolly good, but it falls down for me on its other aspects. The plot doesn't really get started until about a third of the way through, and it's pretty straightforward if you're already thinking in terms of politics and betrayal; and while the characters have obviously had to make compromises to live in their world at all, there's nobody here I'd voluntarily spend any time with, and I found myself having trouble caring what happened to any of them. (And this is where the author's inexperience shows: character backgrounds are too often info-dumpy.) Yes, Nyx is the burned-black core of what Rachel Bach's Devi or Ann Aguirre's Sirantha Jax ought to be, big, tough, no-nonsense, and casually self-destructive; her flaws are not "sexy flaws" designed to make her more appealing to the male-gazey reader, but actual problems; but for me this book goes too far the other way, and I don't find myself engaged by her travails, particularly when so many of them are of her own making. The book is unrelentingly grim, and frankly hard work to get through at times.

I know that many people don't need sympathetic characters to enjoy a book, and if the world-building is enough to get you through then this is definitely one to consider. I think this might appeal to people who like the works of Richard Morgan, with which I also don't get on. Followed by Infidel.

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See also:
Fortune's Pawn, Rachel Bach
Grimspace, Ann Aguirre


  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 10:55am on 05 September 2015

    Well I like (most of) the works of Richard Morgan, but I didn't get on with this. Like you, I didn't care about any of the characters, and Nyx is an arsehole too much of the time.

    It seems that I don't mind flawed characters, unless that flaw is "is an arsehole".

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 07:52pm on 05 September 2015

    I've liked flawed characters in other books (it's the central premise of tart noir, after all), and even occasionally self-destructive ones, but Nyx seemed to be too thoroughly determined to mess up everything she touched.

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