Up for Review: Earth Thirst

What is it with 8 January? So far I have five review copies of books that will be published on that day, and I’ve now banned myself from requesting any others (unless I really, really want them), because I’m already going to have to pull a masterful feat of organisation to get all these reviewed in time.

It’s been a while since I read anything about vampires, but I need a vampire book for a reading challenge, so Earth Thirst will most likely be one of the first 8 January novels that I read. It’ll be my first piece of fiction by Mark Teppo, although I already known his name from the Foreworld Saga.

Earth Thirst by Mark Teppo (Night Shade Books)

Marketing copy from NetGalley:

The Earth is dying. Humanity–over-breeding, over-consuming—is destroying the very planet they call home. Multinational corporations despoil the environment, market genetically modified crops to control the food supply, and use their wealth and influence and private armies to crush anything, and anyone, that gets in the way of their profits. Nothing human can stop them.

But something unhuman might.

Once they did not fear the sun. Once they could breathe the air and sleep where they chose. But now they can rest only within the uncontaminated soil of Mother Earth—and the time has come for them to fight back against the ruthless corporations that threaten their immortal existence.

They are the last guardians of paradise, more than human but less than angels. They call themselves the Arcadians.

We know them as vampires. . .

Earth Thirst will be published on 8 January by Night Shade Books. It is the first novel in a series known as The Arcadian Conflict.

Links:
Add it on Goodreads
Buy it at The Book Depository

About the author:
Mark Teppo suffers from a mild case of bibliomania, which serves him well in his on-going pursuit of a writing career. Fascinated with the mystical and the extra-ordinary, he channels this enthusiasm into fictional explorations of magic realism, urban fantasy, and surreal experimentation. Recently, he’s been building franchises and writing historical fiction. – from the author’s website
Website
Twitter
List of works on Goodreads

 

Review of Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

Title: Of Blood and Honey
Series: 
The Fey and the Fallen #1
Author: 
Stina Leicht
Published: 
1 Febryary 2011
Publisher: 
Night Shade Books
Genre: 
urban fantasy, historical
Source: 
own copy
Rating: 
6/10

Of Blood and Honey opens in the midst of The Troubles in Derry, Northern Ireland, on 17 November 1971. The Catholics are fighting the Protestants, and the Irish are fighting the English. Sixteen-year-old Liam Kelly is in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets beaten, arrested, and jailed by British soldiers for rioting. His imprisonment marks the beginning of a violent and tragic personal struggle that is half mythical and half political. In jail (the first of two equally unfair imprisonments), Liam has some inexplicable experiences – when he’s angry or threatened, he feels an electric prickling under his skin that only stops when he touches iron; he sees a massive Irish Wolfhound watching him from behind the prison fence; and when he’s violently attacked by one of the guards, he becomes a monster that wreaks gory vengeance on his attacker.

Liam doesn’t understand any of this, because he was never told that his father, Bran, was a púca, one of the Fey, also known as the Fianna – a creature from Irish folklore. Bran has never spoken to Liam, although he sometimes watches over him or meets briefly with Liam’s mother, Kathleen. He never spends much time in the human world, as he’s one of the commanders in an otherworldly war between the Fey and the Fallen Angels.

Half human, half fey, Liam has inherited some supernatural traits from his father – an aversion to iron, heightened senses, and the ability to shift into a powerful, terrifying hound. He experiences the hound as a separate being inside himself, a monstrous other half that tries to take over when Liam is angry or threatened. For a long time he tries to keep the beast at bay, but it becomes harder as he grows older and his life becomes more dangerous, making it tempting for him to just give in to violence.

After his second stint in jail, Liam joins the IRA, less for political reasons than as a means of making a life for himself and his sweetheart, Mary Kate. Sadly, both the IRA and Liam’s Fey blood endanger them, and seem to make a happy life impossible.

I was surprised to find that personal drama and political struggle were major subjects of the novel. After all, the series is entitled “The Fey and the Fallen”, and the blurb suggests that this centuries-old battle is a major part of the story. In fact, the supernatural war is mostly relegated to the background. We hear about it mostly during Bran’s brief appearances, and through the figure of Father Joe Murray. Father Murray, a kind and loyal family friend, is also a member of a secret Catholic order devoted to fighting a divine war against the Fallen. For years he’s been watching Liam closely, concerned that he might be evil.

It’s only towards the end of the novel that the personal, the political and the larger supernatural aspects of the plot are properly merged. One reason it takes so long is that Liam spends most of the story knowing nothing about his father. He notices that people who do him harm tend to come to bad ends but doesn’t understand how or why. He struggles blindly with the monster inside him, and slowly starts to believe that he must be demonic, cursed. Of course Liam’s mother knows the truth, as does Father Murray, but they hide it from Liam in a bid to protect him.

I really hate it when characters do this. It always turns out to have been a bad idea despite the liars’ good intentions, and the author farms the situation for drama. In this case, I also think the lie is perpetuated for far too long. The reader knows about Liam’s heritage from the very beginning, but you’re made to wait so long for him to be told about it that the deception becomes frustrating.

And while we’re on the subject of misinformation, I found it slightly implausible that the Catholic order fighting the Fallen doesn’t understand that there’s a difference between the Fey and the Fallen, and that they’re actually enemies. For as long as it’s existed, this order has been killing the Fey, assuming that they’re evil fallen angels too. Apparently none of the Catholics ever spoke to the Fey, and none of the Fey bothered correcting the mistake. All it takes is one conversation with Bran for Father Murray to learn the truth, although his superiors later dismiss the idea as a fairy tale. Their error is chalked up to rigid tradition and blind belief in the Bible, which makes no mention of the Fey. Nevertheless, Father Murray learns the truth so quickly and easily that it seemed odd that no one from the order had learned this before.

Flaws aside, this isn’t a bad book.  It’s a strong, well-written character drama about a man dealing with the particularly dire problems of coming of age in a time and place fraught with political conflict. This is not to say that the fantasy element feels slapped on – Liam’s Fey heritage is perfectly entwined with the other aspects of his life. The monster inside him is an apt response to the injustices he suffers – an understandable urge to retaliate with brutality and kill those who wronged him. His internal battle with it is also a moral debate – is it acceptable for him to submit to the monster? Even if his victims deserve what they get, what kind of person – or thing – does that make him? Is it possible for him to be a good person with the monster inside him? Mary Kate, Liam’s girlfriend and eventual wife, is often at the heart of these questions as he contemplates making a life with her.

Of Blood and Honey certainly doesn’t feel like your average urban fantasy novel. It’s quieter, darker and more serious, with bursts of brutality. The historical setting is something new for me, although according to Calico Reaction’s review (which in turn references the reviews of Martin McGrath, and Liz Bourke at Strange Horizons), ignorance of the conflict allows you to enjoy the novel at bit more, as the historical inaccuracies can drive you nuts. Skimming over some of the basics though, I felt that a better historical background might have given me a better understanding of the way Leicht combines mythology and politics. It would be a good idea to educate myself then, before reading the sequel, And Blue Skies from Pain. It looks like it will have a greater focus on the divine war, and hopefully it will be mroe strongly linked to the Irish conflict. Also Liam will have a chance to properly explore his Fey heritage. I look forward to it.

Buy Of Blood and Honey at The Book Depository

Review of Infidel by Kameron Hurley

Title: Infidel
Series: Bel Dam Apocrypha #2
Author: Kameron Hurley
Published: 
1 October 2011
Publisher: 
Night Shade Books
Genre: 
science fiction
Source: 
eARC from the author
Rating: 
7/10

Please note: this review contains minor spoilers for Book One in the series.

Nyx had been better dressed, better armed, and better supported, once: running with her bel dame sisters instead of a cocky boy shifter and a reformed venom addict. Now, instead of collecting blood debt, she was babysitting diplomats and cutting up petty debtors when the First Familes paid her in hard currency. It felt more honest. But a lot less honorable.

This is how we find Nyx at the opening of Infidel, the second book in the Bel Dame Apocrypha series. The Nyx we met at the beginning of God’s War is now just a memory of when she “used to be young, and fiery, and strong. She used to be able to cut off a head in forty-five seconds with a dull blade. She used to be able to drive a bakkie like a demon”. Now, at 38, she is old, tired, and ashamed of the way her life has lost dignity and meaning, although she’s still very much the emotionally dysfunctional hard-ass from book one. Nyx is offered a chance to reclaim the prestige of being a government assassin when a rogue bel dame tries to kill her. A member of the bel dame council asks her to hunt down such rogues and in return, Nyx can have her bel dame status reinstated. The catch is that the rogues are going after the Queen, starting a civil war to bring down the monarchy and give the bel dames power over the country. This will weaken Nasheen, making it vulnerable to Chenja in their ongoing centuries-old war, and Nyx is nothing if not a patriot. Still, it’s a lot for her to handle, especially when she finds that she’s been infected with a strange, debilitating virus that does far worse than simply threaten to kill her.

Meanwhile, Rhys, Khos, and Inaya are living in the prosperous, genteel city of Tirhan, after abandoning Nyx at the end of God’s War. They’ve settled into quiet domestic lives: Khos and Inaya are married, Rhys has a beautiful if scatterbrained wife, and each family has two young children. But both Rhys and Inaya are involved in government work related to the plot that Nyx is caught up in, and you know it’s only a matter of time before she arrives in Tirhan to disrupt if not ruin their lives. Not that Nyx needs much of an excuse; it’s been six years and she still misses Rhys badly, even thought she would never admit it.

Their strange relationship was one of my favourite things about God’s War, after the excellent writing and worldbuilding, all of which made up for a somewhat lacklustre story. In Infidel, Rhys and Nyx are far apart for much of the novel and the writing is good but less arresting. Hurley continues with her excellent worldbuilding, but although Umayma is still an unusual planet, it’s now familiar and less exciting. On the bright side the story is stronger, better paced and more focused. It’s a good book, but less notable that its predecessor.

Mostly, I missed the weird character dynamics between Nyx and Rhys. They certainly made a very odd pair – a drunken, violent atheist, and a devout Muslim with extremely traditional (you could say misogynistic) views about women. It seemed unlikely that they could work together or even respect each other, but they found some kid of solace in each other’s company. I’m not even sure what to call their relationship– it wasn’t exactly a friendship, but it wasn’t just a partnership and it certainly wasn’t a romance.

In Infidel, this great character dynamic is lost, and I found that I don’t really like either of them that much. Nyx is too coarse and too violent. I prefer Rhys’s calm, gentle nature, but I can’t ignore his beliefs about women. Together, they balanced out each other’s flaws – Nyx was enjoyably brash in contrast to the reserved Rhys, and when he worked with Nyx you could forget the fact that Rhys believes she should cover her hair and avoid eye contact with men. Apart, Nyx is a brute and Rhys is a sexist bore. Their reunion doesn’t help much; the past has left too many scars, and the intervening six years have changed Rhys’s life too much.

I found Nyx to be almost thoroughly unlikeable this time around. She’s desperate, reckless, and doesn’t deserve the loyalty of companions. My sympathies actually fell with anyone allied with Nyx because, frankly, that woman is BAD NEWS. She might be a hero, she might be the only person who can get the (dangerous) job done, but she inevitably leaves a trail of pain and chaos in her wake and I’m never quite sure how I feel about her actions. I’m partly hoping she’ll leave poor Rhys alone in Book Three, Rapture. There are moments when he seems to miss the bounty-hunter lifestyle he had with Nyx, but for the most part he would be better off if she stayed the hell away from him.

I don’t necessarily mean all of this as a criticism, although novels are a bit less enjoyable when you don’t like or admire the character you spend the most time with. But I’ve got nothing against unlikeable protagonists per se, and we’re clearly meant to be critical of Nyx. I’d actually like to see her team up with another polar opposite – Inaya, a deeply conservative woman who spent much of her role in God’s War either crying or complaining. Inaya was a shifter who hated shifters, and although she suffered some tragedies that made me feel sorry for her, I couldn’t bring myself to like her. In Infidel however, she became my favourite character – she’s more assured and has unbelievably powerful skills as a shifter, even though she hates using them.

It’s cool to see her in action and, as I mentioned, the story as a whole is clearer and better-paced than the first book. I’m generally not all that interested in political intrigue, but the politics of the plot are simple enough, and Nyx’s purpose boils down to a smaller-scale investigation that involves tracking down the rogue bel dames. It’s very violent; if you’ve read God’s War you’ll know what to expect, although Hurley puts her characters through even greater ordeals this time.

And like the first book, Infidel offers you the pleasure of seeing women driving the plot, and women being fighters without having to be skinny, pretty, fair-skinned women too. There are lots of kick-ass heroines in genre fiction these days, but if book covers are anything to go by, they’re almost always cute white girls who look more like runway models than experienced fighters. The bel dames are big women, heavy with the muscle they need to do their job, bearing the scars of their brutal experiences. Nyx’s body takes such a battering that I started getting seriously concerned about how much more she could take.

Luckily, she ends the novel fully prepared for another bloody adventure in Rapture, although I wouldn’t be too surprised if it ended in her death. Although Infidel wasn’t quite as great as I’d hoped it to be, it’s a good book nevertheless and I’ll be finishing off the series soon.

 

Buy Infidel at The Book Depository

Up for Review: Terminal Island

In doing my research for this post, I learned that Walter Greatshell is the real name of W.G. Marshall. And W.G. Marshall is the author of Enormity, which was one of my favourite reads this year. Which means I’m really looking forward to Terminal Island now.

Terminal Island by Walter Greatshell (Night Shade Books)

Marketing copy from NetGalley:

Henry Cadmus grew up on Catalina Island, a scenic vacationland off the Southern California coast. But Henry’s experiences were far from idyllic. Today, even though Henry has seen firsthand the horrors of war, the ghastly images that haunt his dreams is one he associates with his childhood… and the island: a snarling pig-man holding a cleaver; a jackal-headed woman on a high balcony, dripping blood; strange occult rituals… and worse. If it was up to Henry, he would avoid the island entirely.

But Henry is returning to Catalina Island. At his wife Ruby’s insistence, Henry, Ruby, and their infant daughter are coming to Avalon, so that Henry can face his fears, exorcise his demons, and reconcile with the one he fears most… his mother.

From Walter Greatshell, author of Xombies comes Terminal Island, a novel of cosmic horror.

 

Terminal Island is due to be published on 4 December 2012 by Night Shade Books.

Links:
Add it on Goodreads
The novel on the publisher’s website
Buy a copy at The Book Depository
Greetings from Terminal Island!

The Author:
Nowadays I live with my wife and son in Providence, Rhode Island. When not writing satirical horror novels a la Xombies, I dabble in freelance illustration (with an eye to creating dark children’s books, comics or graphic novels), humorous nonfiction (a throwback to my early days as a freelance journalist and arts critic), and stage acting (most recently in local productions of Oedipus Rex and Karel Capek’s R.U.R.). Which is to say I’m unemployed. The last real job I had was as a graveyard-shift nuclear-submarine technician, and before that I was the general manager of a Providence landmark: the Avon Cinema. What I do next is anyone’s guess. – from Walter Greatshell’s website

Website
Twitter and on Twitter as W.G. Marshall
List of Works
Writing as W.G. Marshall for The Night Bazaar (a blog by Night Shade Books’s authors)

 

Bel Dame Apocrypha eBook Giveaway!

Night Shade Books, my favourite sff and horror publisher, is being particularly awesome with a giveaway of the first two books in Bel Dame Apocrypha series. You might recall that I reviewed the award-winning God’s War earlier this year, and was very impressed with the writing, world-building and character relationships. I’m reading book two, entitled Infidel, at the moment and plan to post a review soon-ish. The final book, Rapture, is coming out on November 6, so Night Shade Books has left you with no excuse not to check this series out.

Here are the details, copied from the email I got from them:

In anticipation of the forthcoming release of Rapture, Kameron Hurley’s bone-shattering conclusion to the epic Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy, that’s exactly what Night Shade Books is giving away. We don’t want you to miss out on any of the “smart, dark, visceral and wonderfully, hectically entertaining” action of this trilogy! So we are giving away the first two titles in the series, the 2012 Nebula Award-nominated God’s War and the awesome Infidel, absolutely free!

 

And, once you’re hooked (as we know you will be), be sure to pick up the exciting conclusion, Rapture, available 11/6/12!

 

Don’t believe the hype? Find out FREE for yourself. Just send an email to Beldamegiveaway@nightshadebooks.com. Night Shade will return fire with an email giving you the info you need to download the files for God’s War and Infidel. Both Epub and Mobi files are available.

 

Rapture is available for pre-order from many of your favorite retailers!

Review of God’s War by Kameron Hurley

Title: God’s War
Series: Bel Dame Apocrypha #1
Author: Kameron Hurley
Published: 18 January 2011
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Genre: science fiction
Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 8/10

God’s War has an opening that should not be ignored. It’s one of the best I’ve ever read, and it continues to impress me. Author Kameron Hurley elegantly weaves an unbelievable amount of characterisation, plot and intrigue into those slick opening lines, and one thing you know for sure after reading them is that this is not conventional sci fi.

Set on the planet Umayma in a post-Earth future, God’s War does not make the usual assumption that, if humans go out and colonise planets, it’ll be western nations that do it. Umayma was settled three thousand years ago by a group of Muslims now known as the First Families. Since then, the world has been divided into two main states – Nasheen and Chenja. Religious differences between the two eventually led to a war that has now been raging for two centuries.

Nyx is a Nasheenian ex-soldier and a bel dame – an elite government-trained assassin. In Nasheen, boys are sent to war at sixteen, and they can “either come home at forty or come home in a bag. No exceptions”. As a bel dame, Nyx has spent the last three years cutting the heads off draft dodgers and deserters. But she also works as a bounty hunter on the side, and now she’s started “selling out her womb on the black market”, using it to grow zygotes for gene pirates. This ‘black work’ gets her in trouble with the other bel dames. She loses her prestigious position and carries on as a bounty hunter with a team of mercenaries, including a magician (not what you think), a shapeshifter, and another hunter who once tried to kill her.

The magician is Rhys – a Chenjan exile. Rhys and Nyx are completely different people – he’s a devout Muslim, she’s an atheist, and that’s just the start – but they need each other and end up forming a bond that’s both comforting and frustrating. Together with their team, they accept a bounty from the Nasheenian queen to track down an alien woman who has the means to end the war, not peacefully, but in one nation’s favour.

There is so much about this novel that I found admirable or at least memorable. There’s the weird bug-tech for example – almost all the technology on Umayma runs on bugs. It sounds stupid and it made me squirm (I loathe bugs) but somehow Hurley makes it work. The magicians in the novel are not the usual fantasy kind, but people with an innate ability to control bugs by altering their pheromones and reprogramming insects at the cellular level. In this way bugs are used for many things, from providing light to screening for bioweapons and regrowing limbs or entire bodies. Even the bakkies (pick-up trucks) run on bugs (and I must say I was delighted to see the word “bakkie”, along with other South African terms, like veldt). It’s scientific rather than magical, and I would certainly call this sci fi, not fantasy, but the term ‘magician’ is apt, because it accounts for the fact that the Umaymans have mastered technology they don’t quite understand.

Attention to little details like this is what makes writing good, and if the opening lines didn’t convince you, then I need to tell you now that the writing is excellent – the kind of word craft that makes me want to buy this novel in hardcopy. I would be a poor reader and a shameful sci fi fan if I didn’t have this on my shelf to re-read a few times. God’s War has almost everything going for it, most notably the characters, who feel so real they’re almost tangible, and a fascinating socio-religious culture clash.

Nasheen and Chenja are two vastly different Islamic societies. In Nasheen, “the queen decreed that God had no place for men in mosques unless they had served at the front”. All boys are sent to war and most don’t come back, so society is ruled and run by women, which has completely altered the way they practice Islam. Few women wear the veil, men and women pray in the same space, technology takes care of any reproductive issues, and there’s simply no culture of submission or modesty among women. Same-sex relationships between women are not only common but celebrated (although still illegal for men), and Nyx, who is bisexual, frequently uses sex both for fun and as a means to cultivate useful relationships. Some of the non-gendered Islamic laws have also been discarded – alcohol is happily consumed, and artworks depicting the Prophet are common.

Rhys’s explanation for this “godlessness” is that Nasheenians have allowed the violence of war to lead them astray:

Chenjan women could submit to god and wield a rifle with equal ease, but Nasheenian women had allowed their propensity for violence to pollute their beliefs. Wielding a rifle, they believed, made them men in the eyes of God, and men did not have to practice modesty or submission to anyone but God. Nasheenian women had forgotten their place in the order of things.

As you can tell, Chenja is a far more conservative nation. Society is divided into “purists” and “orthodox” with a scattering of minority sects. Atheists are killed. Women veil themselves, homosexuality is forbidden, alcohol is banned, as are images of living things, particularly the Prophet (if you’re curious, here’s a Wikipedia article on aniconism in Islam). In Nasheen, Rhys is appalled at the way women stare openly at him, “like harlots” and it’s only when he sees their version of Islam that he truly appreciates why the two nations are at war:

In the mosque, forehead pressed against the floor, Rhys never understood the war. It was only when he raised his head and saw the women praying among him, bareheaded, often bare-legged, shamelessly displaying full heads of hair and ample flesh, that he questioned what these women truly believed they were submitting to. Certainly not the will of God.

It’s a credit to the author’s skill that Rhys is not portrayed simplistically as a hateful fanatic. On the contrary, Rhys is a gentle, likeable character. It’s easy to empathise with him without agreeing with him. In her culture clash with Rhys, you might also expect Nyx to be held up as a paragon of women’s liberation, but she’s as flawed and damaged as anyone else. This is not a book about idols or individuals with unprecedented talents or powers. Rhys is a crap magician, although good with a pistol. Nyx is a skilled assassin, but so is every other bel dame. She can seem manipulative and promiscuous or just comfortable and open with her sexuality, while Rhys seems prejudiced by religion at some points but admirably disciplined and committed at others. My point here is that these character feel real, feel human, because they’re too complex to be easily judged or categorised.

Similarly, Nasheen and Chenja do not fall into black and white categories of utopia and dystopia. Women may have more freedom in Nasheen, but Rhys notes, with sadness, that they have old widows begging in the streets and young women fighting in boxing matches for money. And if women are disempowered by religion in Chenja, in Nasheen it is men who are treated like second-class citizens. Nasheen is also rife with racism – the citizens are not white, but they’re more fair-skinned than Chenjans like Rhys, who is beaten up and discriminated against by Nasheenian women because of his dark skin.

I found the contrast between the two societies fascinating, but I have one criticism – Rhys is the only devout main character, so most of the theology in the novel comes from him. He speaks about both Chenja and Nasheen, but is obviously biased towards his own nation. There is no real voice for Nasheenian theology, which would be so much more interesting because the way they practice Islam is so different. Nyx is a major Nasheenian voice in the novel, but as an atheist she has nothing to say about the way her society reconciles their practices with their religion.

However, there is some compensation in the relationship between Nyx and Rhys, which was one of my favourite things about the novel. They disagree about most things and don’t really get along – he thinks she’s a violent, crude, godless woman, and she thinks he’s a weak, pious dope. Their conversations often include an interesting clash of ideas. Nevertheless, each finds inexplicable solace in the other:

The same woman who could cut the head off a man with a dagger in sixty seconds could ease his mind in the face of a thousand angry Nasheenian women. She could banish all thoughts of God, of submission. Some days she made him feel like an insect, a roach, the worst thing to crawl across the world. And then there were times, like now, when she brought him a stillness he had known only with his forehead pressed to a pray rug.

Nyx is also calmed by Rhys – there are a few instances when she’s stressed or scared and asks him to read to her. She doesn’t like what he reads (poetry or the Quran) but she finds his voice soothing. There isn’t any romance here, just a strange kind of friendship between two people who don’t really want to be friends.

The only real shortcoming of this novel is that the plot doesn’t live up to the brilliant opening lines, and it pales in comparison to other aspects of the book. It’s quite slow, plodding along in the background while culture and character dominate the foreground. This isn’t a bad thing in itself, but while some novels are written with plot as a minor feature, this one felt more like the plot was meant to be a strong element but failed. It’s only in the last quarter or so that plot comes to the fore and drives the story. The rest of the time I found it vague and largely uninteresting.

On the bright side, there is a fair bit of intrigue that I’m hoping will be more thoroughly explored in the sequels Infidel (01/10/2011) and Rapture (due 06/11/2012). The alien woman that Nyx and Rhys have to track down is actually human, but is considered alien because she is from another colonised planet, and her pale skin sets her apart from the Umaymans. It’s implied early on that these ‘aliens’ are from a Christian society and there’s a suggestion that Umayma is not the only planet where humans are fighting a religious war. This raises a lot of questions about the nature of the human race when it left Earth to colonise other planets, not to mention the future of Umayma when Islam isn’t the only theory of God being fought over.

God’s War almost instantly got me interested in reading the rest of the Bel Dame Apocrypha series. It combines many of the things I’m most interested in – science fiction, religion, gender, sexuality and good writing – and although I thought the plot could have been stronger, the characters and world-building more than made up for that. I’d recommend this to all sci fi fans, not just because it’s such a damn good book, but also because it brings some variety to a very western, male-dominated genre.

 

Buy a copy of God’s War at The Book Depository

Up for Review: God’s War

I’m going to let this one speak for itself. Check out these amazing opening paragraphs:

Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.
Drunk, but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoky cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jaks, and lost it two rounds later when Jaks hit the floor like an antique harem girl.
Nyx lost every coin, a wad of opium, and the wine she’d gotten from the butchers as a bonus for her womb. But she did get Jaks into bed and – loser or not – in the desert after dark that was something.
“What are you after?” Jaks murmured in her good ear.
They lay tangled in the sheets like old lovers: a losing boxer with a poor right hook and a tendency to drop her left, and a wombless hunter bereft of money, weapons, and most of her clothing.
“I’m looking for my sister,” Nyx said. It was partly the truth. She was looking for something else too, something worth a lot more, and Jaks was going to help her get it.
The midnight call to prayer rolled out over the desert. It started somewhere out in Faleen and moved in a slow wave from mosque muezzin to village mullah to town crier, certain as a swarm of locusts, ubiquitous as the name of God.
“Don’t tell anyone,” Nyx said, “what I’m about to tell you.”

I can’t resist a book that starts like that. In that short piece of damn good writing, author Kameron Hurley tells us so much about Nyx and the world God’s War is set in, while working in a good deal of intrigue. It’s just so slick. 

The blurb has a broader scope but is less revealing:

Some days, Nyx was a Bel Dame – an honored, respected, and deadly government-funded assassin – other days, she was a butcher and a hunter; a woman with nothing to lose. Now the butcher has a bounty to bring in. Nyx and her rag-tag group of mercenaries is about to take up a contract that will shake the foundations of two warring governments… (from NetGalley)

 

I feel I should tell you a bit more. God’s War is set on Umayma, a hot, hostile planet in an isolated area of the universe. Umayma was colonised by Islamic families many centuries before. Religious differences eventually led to conflict, and for two hundred years the two main nations on the planet have been engaged in a brutal war. With a detailed depiction of a pair of post-Earth societies with wildly different interpretations of Islam, Hurley has created what has so far been an excellent and unique piece of science fiction. I’m about halfway through the novel and hope to have a review for you by Thursday or at least next week Tuesday.

God’s War is the first novel in the Bel Dame Apocrypha series, published by Night Shade Books on 18 January 2011. The sequel, Infidelwas published on 1 October 2011. The third book in the series, entitled Rapture is due to be published on 6 November this year. To learn more about the author, check out her website, where she has some interesting articles on books, writing and gender. She also has links to some short fiction that you can read for free. From what I’ve read of God’s War, I think you should definitely go and check that out NOW.