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 between 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 get through 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. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

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

Previous in series: Raven Stratagem | Series: The Machineries of Empire | Next in series: Hexarchate Stories

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1