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Monday, February 21, 2011

God's War by Kameron Hurley (Reviewed by Mihir)

Order God's War HERE
Watch the Book Trailer HERE
Read the first 3 Chapters HERE
Read an Interview with the author HERE and HERE
Download a free copy of the Author's entire short story collection HERE (Scribd) or HERE (Smashwords)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Kameron Hurley was brought up in the state of Washington. She has led a nomadic lifestyle living in different places such as Alaska, South Africa and Illinois. She had been a participant of the Clarion West workshop in 2000. She also received a BA at the University of Alaska in 2001, and then got her Master's Degree from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa in 2003. Kameron currently lives in Ohio. Some of her previous short stories have appeared in various e-magazines such as Talebones, The Leading Edge, and Deep Outside.

BOOK BLURB: Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn’t make any difference…

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there’s one thing everybody agrees on–There’s not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, her ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war–but at what price?

The world is about to find out!

CLASSIFICATION: A mix of hardboiled noir with SF and mixed with a subgenre that the author refers to as bug-punk. God’s War is a little hard to classify but to sum it up in a line, it’s a tale of a woman warrior’s search for answers amidst a world of chaos.

FORMAT/INFO: God’s War is 286 pages long, divided over thirty nine numbered chapters, which are grouped into two sections. Narration is in the third person mainly via the protagonist Nyxnissa and a few of the chapters from the view of Rhys, Taite and Khos. God’s War is the first volume in the Umayma trilogy and will be followed by Infidel and Babylon (hopefully). This book can be read as a standalone and ends on a clear note.

January 18, 2011 marked the North American trade paperback publication of God’s War via Night Shade books. Cover art is provided by David Palumbo.

ANALYSIS: I was interested in Kameron Hurley’s book since I had heard about it late in 2009, I had originally included it in my 2010 anticipated list, however due to certain publishing dilemmas this book was given the pink slip by its original publisher and then was picked by Night Shade books. This delayed the book’s publication by nearly a year and so when I contacted Ms. Hurley for a review copy, she gladly obliged & I dove in wondering how it would stack up against my anticipation.

God’s War is divided into two parts, of which the first opens with Nyxnissa entering Faleen after selling her organ and looking for a new job of sorts. She looks up an old acquaintance [if acquaintance is indeed the word] however ends up being introduced to her old comrades who have an ulterior motive in meeting her. The first part thus ends soon after introducing Nyxnissa and Rhys and gives the reader a small but mysterious glimpse of the world of Umayma.

The second part opens a few years later showing Nyx with her rag tag band operating as a mercenary unit and trying to survive in a rather harsh world. They get an assignment of sorts which has every other mercenary, both groups and loners hustling to get more information about the bounty and the target. Something seems amiss to Nyx as the summons come from the Queen of Nasheen. Upon attending the summons, she learns that a visitor from the planet of New Kinaan is missing and if that person is not found or if she falls in to the enemy hands, the war will end very badly for Nasheen. Thus begins Nyx’s odyssey which will see her visit old and new places, meet older enemies and find out what really makes her tick.

Kameron Hurley’s book went slightly against my expectations in the sense that it is a far grittier book than I thought it would be; but the ace in the hole is her world building. The world is revealed bit by bit as the pages rush along and the reader realizes that as good as the story is, the world in itself a far more interesting place to ponder about. There are snippets revealed here and there which help the reader in understanding the history and background of the world. In this regards I found the author’s writing to be a bit similar to that of R. Scott Bakker as the history of the world is revealed slowly and the reader will have to piece things together to form the larger picture. However with an advantage that it’s less dense than Bakker’s books. This is a plus (for me) as while I like Bakker’s world-building and his story, sometimes it feels like a chore to read or re-read his books.

Another plus point is that Kameron brings a hardboiled approach to her protagonist and gives the reader further pondering points to this complex tale. The prose is good and will pull the reader in while raising issues about gender, war, faith & the validity of religion. The plot is a bit convoluted at the start but by the end, is wrapped up nicely, the flow of the story is also linear and enough mystery is presented to engage the reader both on the character and overall plot level. The last plus point is that author has rather cleverly given pointers about the world’s history by employing certain specific words and also utilizing them in the proper context.

Now there are a few kinks in this debut novel as well, namely the first part acts a 50 page prologue and can be a bit confusing with all the new terms which are used by the characters, this can be a bit disorienting to the reader however once the second part begins and the actual plot kicks in, that’s where the book really picks up speed. Some readers might be a bit put off by the hard protagonist, however Hurley shows off Nyx as a person with many sides to her and by the end of the tale, the reader will surely sympathize for her if not empathize with her. A slight drawback to this tale could be that while the reader gets a detailed view into Nyx, the same cannot be said of the other POV characters (besides Rhys to a certain extent).

CONCLUSION: Over all I really enjoyed this debut novel which was a fun mish mash of SF and hard boiled noir set on a distant world wherein even with a singular religion, society has disintegrated and men[in this case women as well] fight against each other for causes which they believe to be true. Kameron Hurley paints a rather bleak picture of the flaws of mankind which sees them fighting a war and thus repeating history as we are doomed to do.


Bastard said...

Coincidentally I finished reading God's War the same day this was posted here. I really liked the book, it rocked. Quite a brutal book and really looking forward to see how the characters develop from here and where Kameron Hurley takes us next.

Not an easy read, you get thrust into the world with zero spoon feeding which can make for a difficult read, but ultimately a very cool read.

The Reader said...

@ B.

Yeah, its a very fast paced book. I liked how the world was unveiled slowly.

Looking forward to Infidel and to see where KH takes the readers next!


redhead said...

I just posted my review of this. The world building was probably my favorite part. I loved the evolution of religions and the tech on the planet as well. Rhys was my favorite character, and I liked Nyx plenty, but the more noir I read, the more I'm finding "hard boiled" just isn't my thing.

The Reader said...

@ Redhead

Yeah, the worldbuilding is truly fun to read/figure out. I somehow like Nyx a bit more than Rhys, but this was also sue to the fact that we did not get such a deep look into Rhys as we did for Nyx.

HB takes a while to get into, but then again to each his own, I guess we all read what we like :)


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Okay, I think this sounds like a great read. Grit and world and SF. I'm going to add to the WANT list now. Thanks!

Mihir said...

Hi Melissa

I'm glad you think so, hope you enjoy the book.



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