I was perusing my list of books to read the other day and realized that the amount of science fiction on the list was really rather short. My tastes, as of late have tended towards the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres. The few science fiction titles had been sadly dejected and I determined to correct this egregious error.
The title on my list that really sparked my interest was God’s War by Kameron Hurley. I had to visit a few book stores before I finally found a copy and gleefully took it home to read.
The book was wonderful. It is the gritty story of Nyx and her team as they are set up on the path to ferret out a deadly conspiracy. We are introduced to Nyx as she struggles to complete her latest job. She has lost everything in the pursuit of one boy that has fled the front lines. In a world ravaged by centuries of biological warfare, those that flee the front put whole nations at risk of contamination. Thus Nyx has sacrificed everything, even her womb, to catch this latest note. It is this last sacrifice that costs her the position in the Bel Dames, the Royal Assassins. What follows is the story of her rebuilding doing the only thing she knows how, bounty hunting. She builds a team and works hard to make everything work. Redemption is dangled before in a note from the Queen herself. If her team can find a missing alien and return her to the palace, she could possibly be a Bel Dame again. The price for redemption will be high.
Hurley’s characters had a depth which I found intriguing. Each and every member of the team is just like Nyx; broken and flawed yet still noble in their own way. Each step along the path of the story reveals more and more about each member of the team. This process started slowly but then had me reading at a break neck pace as I really wanted to see the secret to each of these characters.Needless to say, I was not disappointed. There was even a geeky little Easter egg hidden towards the end of the book. If you are a fan of the movie Sneakers, you will recognize it instantly and it will leave you grinning from ear to ear.
Hurley’s setting is a masterpiece. It is by turns frighteningly alien and enticingly exotic. Her use of an Islamic based culture was refreshing. The trappings are present but stayed clear of playing to the stereotypes that I would expect. She plays deftly with the gender imbalances that one sees in Islamic culture. The two nations that are at war have this as one of the major contentions. The Chenjan’s are of the conservative bent and view women as the subservient gender. The Nasheenian, Nyx being the prime example, view women as the dominant gender and are ruled by a matriarchy. Watching the Nasheenian society being revealed throughout the story was brilliant. She shows how this would touch on all aspects of society and would even have a different feel to it within the conservative echelons of Nasheenian society as illustrated by Nyx’s sister, Kine.
The technology of her world is interesting as well. Instead of hard tech that one associates with science fiction, Hurley has used bugs and organics. The vehicles are powered by bug and held together by organic materials. Even the guns and bombs are organic with the most devastating weapons of the war being the contaminants that can scour a city of life if not kept out by shielding. The reasons behind the bugs, magicians, and shifters are slowly explained to a certain extent over the course of the story. These glimpses into the workings of her world are enticing and made me want to know more about it;s past and it’s future.
Kameron Hurley has created something unique here. She has created a gritty cast of characters that are definitely hard to like but are even harder not to want to know more. She has created a world both frightening in it’s brutality yet beautiful in its heroism and strangeness. Thankfully there are two more books in this series so that I can look forward to more tantalizing peaks at these characters and this world.