The first book in Kameron Hurley's Bel Dame Apocrypha series is set in a future world ravaged by holy war, and former assassin Nyx is called back into duty by her government to help end the conflict. Hurley builds a fascinating atmosphere with a remarkable attention to detail, as well as an intriguing heroine who is brought to life by Emily Bauer's tough, engaging performance. Bauer is convincing in portraying Nyx's intelligence and fortitude, making God's War an intriguing sci-fi fantasy that entertainingly tackles aspects of gender, war, and religion.
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, Nyx's 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.
©2011 Kameron Hurley (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
This is one of those rare sci-fi novels that uses the genre to explore our own culture and assumptions by turning them on their head in a far-flung fictional world. The true beauty and success of the narrative is that the book does this without becoming preachy.
This is not a simple book. It explores questions of gender, religion, morality, violence, war, bio-engineering and what it means to be human. The protagonist is an anti-hero... complex, morally ambiguous, someone who I could believe as a scarred war veteran.
You should read this book and appreciate it for the nuanced examination of social structures, belief and the affect of war on the human psyche. Or, you could simply read it for the action, the pacing, the unique sci-fi world building and the interesting story.
The narrative and the narration flow so well together that I didn't experience any of that disconnect you sometimes feel in an audiobook.
I rarely give 5 stars. I gave this 5 stars across the board.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
Firstly, the world is completely foreign. Not only because it is an alien world (actually, we are never told if the inhabitants are even human - or originally from earth), but because the world is based on some interpretation/manipulation of Islam.
The war, the 'sides' in the war, the response to off-worlders, the gender roles, the power of rule... actually, everything... came from a distinctly non-Western perspective. And I don't mean that it was just the 'bad' guys, or the 'other' guys who were non-Western - everything was. That, and it is a world where biology/ecology - and bio/eco-warfare - has been taken to an almost incomprehensible level. Yes, this warfare was still believable, just very extreme.
I did not try to learn the 'rules' of this world at the start of the book, but just accepted them as they came, and by the end of the novel it all made sense. Sure, the first time I heard the description of their 'cars' I was completely baffled, but as time passed, it made more sense. And by about halfway through, I was comfortable with how the world is so different, and why. There are genetic deviations that are very sci-fi in nature, but it is a sci-fi book, so it was easy enough to suspend disbelief and go along with them.
Was there a plot? Yes, but it got hidden under the novelty of the world-building just a bit too much. And sometimes the characters were difficult to keep straight (there are a lot of them )... I am not sure if it was because of their names, or because there were just too many factions in play.
Anyway, it was interesting, depressing and dark. The narration is fine (don't know why others complained, the narration is clear and distinct). It is violent, but not gory, there is foul language but no sex. I will be reading more in the series.
Here's two things you should probably know before you purchase this book:
Kameron Hurley is a Feminist, capital F, the kind that doesn't want women to be men with breasts. She's the type of person interested in what makes societies what they are, and who puts all of the negativity of strict gender roles into this book, unflinching.
She was very into Middle Eastern religion when she wrote this trilogy, and spent six years beforehand researching war.
Still with me? Good. Kameron Hurley doesn't pull punches. She's interested in writing real people who have real consequences from their actions. If you want a kickass assassin hero who retains the high road after witnessing or being part of bloodshed, or whose sense of honor keeps her above the nitty gritty, who can go live happily ever after when all is said and done: this is the wrong story for you.
If however you're into a fantastically crafted world that sticks your nose down into the blood and gore and tells you to look at it, whose characters are a product of that bloody world, and has a story that continually pounds the characters into the ground? If you want a world that is vast, well thought out (and is continually developed into the next two books), that has BUG TECH and huge sociological and gender equality (no, not just women being oppressed -- in Nasheen it's the men who are most outwardly oppressed) issues due to an unending war? Yeah, this one's for you.
That said, it isn't perfect. It gets slow in some parts and some things don't quite fit together. The plotting wasn't as tight as it could have been, and some of the pacing will feel rushed. A lot of real world parallels can be drawn, and some may find that offensive. The characters aren't nice, and you might find yourself wishing there was a little more give in them. This is the type of book that, if you get invested enough into it, will make you hurt. But, maybe that's a plus. I don't know. What I do know is that despite its flaws, despite the unflinching way it rubs your nose in the dirt, I loved it.
Now, the narrator. I know that some people have complained about her voice because it is naturally on the high side, but after listening to all three books I would honestly not have anyone else. Her ability to put gravel into her voice, to make it sound rough and old and worn out, to put nuances into the characters and the slightest bit of accents: no complaints. I think she was a dang good choice for the role. I know who is speaking almost all of the time without needing to put a name to it, and the way she paces herself and puts emphasis on certain things made the story come to life. Great narrator.
So! Bottom line: If you want a strong female main character whose brutality, mental damage due to said brutality, whose relationship with the other narrating characters is more conflict than not, and whose resolve pushes the story along in a wave of violence: this is a good story for you.
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.
The number of characters and the relations between them were superbly done. This writer knows what they're doing, and was able to bring together a host of themes that recurred in characters, setting, and plot and in an wholly engaging manner.
Hard to say. Nyx was a great character of course, but the author did a good job of letting us see a lot of depth in the other characters, especially the team: Anneke, Khos, Inaya, Rhys... There were some nice connections to Nyx's enemies as well - not your stereotypical completely evil baddies in this story.
Emily Bauer did excellent work changing her voice for different characters. I'd say in conversations Bauer really shined. I could truly hear the character. There were some times I felt she forced the poignant or soul-searching moments a bit too much, hence the 4-star not 5, but other than that, great job.
Hmm... I'm not sure I would say there was one moment, rather it was the piling up of subtle themes interlaced in each scene that moved me. Especially when it came to the consideration of war and how war affects us, the scenes in which we experience the war affecting these characters but also the moments that bring them to recall the aftereffects of war-related incidents.
Looking forward to Book #2 and #3!!!
Seeking authors who don't write stories loaded with sales gimmicks that are so prevalent in audiobooks these days.
This was written the moment I finished the book.A book to let your imagination get rich, I enjoyed seeing so much in my head, the people and their rooms and clothes. what is in there hands. I can loose myself in my imagination in so many ways. What characters I would want to be, fear or root for. I enjoyed the nature of the outer world and the craziness of it. I like to be challenged in a way simular to Magic Realism, gone Cyber to "Bug Punk". (Not my phase, I picked this out of a few other reviews)How it would feel to look up at that sky. The writing is like Fate sitting a the spinning wheel as we are given info bits to make the world real, and really different. The technology is ironic, viscus and intriguing. A bit spooky and lots often tension. The martal arts or battles are great with plenty surprises for example a gun that isn't a primitive throwback, nor high tech weap. that shoots a round at near light speeds. Ha, you'll have to wait and see.And much more.
Hard to choose so far
I'll get back to you on that, She did very well.
I wrote this the moment I finished the book, way past my bedtime...urg
I avoid stereotyping people like the plauge, I don't care for labling groups of people. We are what we are. Even if we are trying to be complementary. Calling Smurfs blue, is it really nessary? Other than in a police lineup?
amazing unique and powerful voice in both story and narrative performance. if you are not easily offended, you will love this. if you are easily offended you need to hear this and think.
This book has some fresh perspectives on women, war (particularly holy war), and technology. I enjoyed it, and look forward to finishing the series.
NOTE: The person who referred this book to me said it was good, but awfully violent, and I have seen that in some reviews. I didn't think it was particularly violent in comparison to other books in the genre. Sadly, our real holy wars are probably more violent.
I'm an older, experienced listener. Audiobooks are an important part of my life...
dramatic narration more suitable to a romance or soap opera. The excessive violence would have been better served by dispassionate or hard-boiled narration .
I really tried to like this book. But, after about an hour, I gave up. The story and characters were hard to follow. I was completely confused with the whole gender-reversal of characters. I didn't know who was male or female. Maybe I wasn't supposed to care. But, I am a reader who likes to mentally "see" the characters. Also, the whole bug-machines made no sense.
Sorry, I cannot recommend.
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