I had this book in my wish list for months before I finally bought it, and I'm sorry I dithered for so long. It's one of the most innovative books I've ever read, from science fiction or any other genre. The lack of exposition was confusing at times, especially given how different the setting is from most science fiction or fantasy novels, but it fit with the harshness and cruelty of the society where the story took place. I loved the idea of using insects in all aspects of daily life - it makes sense that they would be the only "domesticated animals" able to survive on a barely habitable world like Umayma. Some of the science (especially the "magical" abilities of magicians and shifters) probably wouldn't hold up to careful scrutiny, but that's what suspension of disbelief is for.
I'm no expert on Islam, but the author's portrayal of how religion provides comfort and meaning but is also a source of irrational violence rang true for me. And it was fascinating to imagine how a Muslim society would change if it were run by women. Some authors would use that as an excuse to indulge in girl-power fantasies about how everything would be better if only men would get out of the way, but Kameron Hurley provides a much more complicated vision of both faith and gender.
I noticed some reviewers had trouble sympathizing with Nyx, the main character. I'm not sure what this says about me, but I loved her. She's found that she has an incredible talent for one thing - killing people - and being a bel dame allows her to express that talent in a socially-approved manner. Everything else in Nyx's life is a total mess: money, family, friends, romance. . .it seemed credible to me that being a skilled assassin wouldn't necessarily equip her to deal with any of those other issues. It was painful to see the consequences of Nyx's mistakes, both for her and for those around her, but I loved that the story didn't hold back from exploring how violence poisons everyone it touches. So many stories push their characters to the brink of catastrophe and then shoe-horn the plot into a happy ending that feels false. Without giving anything away, I can say that God's War definitely avoided that trap.
The one weakness I saw in God's War was that the actual plot got a bit lost under all the world- and character-building. The world and the characters were awesome, though, so I'm more than willing to overlook that. Don't read this book if you want a mindless thrill ride full of guns and butt-kicking, but please do read it if you're in the mood to think hard about science, faith, gender, and the ways we use all of them for both good and ill.
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