Saturday, August 27, 2016

Book Review: God's War by Kameron Hurley

God's War by Kameron Hurley

Paperback, 288 pages Published January 2011 by Night Shade Books

Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2011)

Arthur C. Clarke Award Nominee (2014)

British Science Fiction Association Award Nominee for Best Novel (2013)

Gaylactic Spectrum Award Nominee for Best Novel (2012)

The Kitschies for Golden Tentacle (Debut) (2011)

James Tiptree Jr. Award Honor List (2011)

It was really hard for me to give this novel a completely fair review. I first learned of Hurley from a interview she did on Geek's Guide to the Galaxy. The interview was focused on her recent book of essays on the important topic of Feminism in Science Fiction. I really enjoyed the interview and really was sold on Hurley as a important I NEEDED to check out. However she did make one statement I couldn't shake. It is not right but I couldn't shake it the whole time I read this novel.

She said that Ursula K. Leguin's writing was not radical enough. Wow, really the 80 something anarchist author who wrote Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed and Always Coming Home is not radical enough? Alright I had to read one of her books. I started with God's War. I am sure Hurley didn't sit down to outdo Leguin when she wrote this novel and as much as I know it ain't right that was the prism I was reading this novel through. OK first off I love the setting, which the lazy reader would look at as a sci-fi re-telling of the middle east. We have a far future human colony that is wrecked by the ravages of the wars that took place long ago. This world clearly colonized by Muslims follows a strange mix Matriarchy (as most men left to fight a war) and the Koran. The main character Nyx is a bounty hunter who claims heads across the wasteland. I had this image that reminded me of the old Shaw Brothers movie Heads for Sale.

The novel starts with a excellent opening line. "Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert." The body and organ sale aspects of the story were very compelling. the main character Nyx didn't look like the lady on the cover of the book in my mind. A survivor. She is a part of a society of assassins called Bel Dames.

There is a interesting balance going on between the setting of the novel and the marketing of the book. I know don't Judge a book by it's cover. To look at the book cover and skim the novel God's war sets up for standard male fantasy sci-fi. The "hottie" buff action star that kicks ass and excites the boys in a tank top and fresh lipstick. However a deeper look and understanding Hurley paints a world where woman dominate, not in a sitting on a throne type of way. The women in the novel do not have typical roles. This not a Matriarchy in the sense of power structure, just in the way society exists. In my mind Nyx was not a video game lady with fresh lipstick, she was a burly, dirty, hair legged woman who kicked serious ass. I liked her and believed her that way.

There was curious mix of excellent subtle world building, but other times where the writing got dense and lost me. I was kinda in the mood for a a light read so some of that is on me. Sometimes the author expected us to pick up on parts of the world I just didn't understand. Overall I enjoyed the novel, I probably will finish the trilogy at some point and I excited to read her other works. Maybe then I will find this stuff she thinks is more radical than Leguin. ha-ha.

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