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Douglas Hulick author of Among Thieves (review here)

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Kameron Hurley author of God's War (review here)

Brent Weeks author of The Black Prism (review here)

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Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

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Control Point by Myke Cole

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REVIEW | God's War by Kameron Hurley

On a distant inhospitable world thousands of years in the future humans fight for survival and supremacy. Umayma is a planet in a constant state of war with itself as different religious factions send generations of their men to face off in bitter battle after battle. People are willing to sell their body parts just to make it through another day. Large bugs proliferate the planet and some are even used to run partially organic machines. Nyx is a Bel Dame and she is out for blood and bread money.

Bugpunk. When I first heard that term I couldn't put my finger on what to expect. Will people be riding giant caterpillars around? Would people be fighting against their oppressive Ant Overlords? No and no. Hurley's engrossing debut God's War is clearly none of those things. Hurley's bugpunk is much more well thought out and intricate, which feels perfect for the world she has created. God's War dissects and melds bugs to machines while humans can control swarms of bugs to do their bidding. There is high technology on this world although much of it is given more a magic feel as the people who master the bug arts are called Magicians. Magicians were also the first to live on the world and made in semi-habitable for other people. All of this adds up to some very original world-building.

And yet, God's War isn't just about the bugs.  They merely help set the stage for a harsh world filled with people willing to sell their organs to criminals while women are sent to breeding farms to have batches of children. God's War centers around Nyx who is one of the strongest female leads I've ever come across in a genre novel. She is brash, self-serving, and can take an intense torture session with the best of them. Rhys is the other lead although he often takes a backseat role to the strong personality that is Nyx. Rhys is a fledgling Magician who is ostracized from everyone around him. He left his home country only to find refuge being surround by people who judge him based on the color of his skin. It felt strange, but nice to read a Sci-Fi novel where all the men are described as pretty and most of the women as gnarled in some fashion.

Race, religion, sexuality, and evolution are explored in new, deft, and often audacious ways. The race clashes are well handled and never feel over the top with a political agenda. Religion takes quite a hit though as we see as much as things change they stay the same with slightly differing views causing the death of thousands with neither side willing to back down. The way the religion morphs feels very plausible as Hurley draws from our own world's religion and gives them life through realistic circumstances in an unapologetic manner. Sexuality is very blurred as characters quickly pass from one sexual encounter to the next not caring at all which sex they play with.

The first section lagged somewhat as it really is just a prologue to the hornet's nest Nyx later gets trapped in for the rest of the book. But that is my only complaint. I almost wonder if it would have been better to do the first section in alternating flashbacks with the later storyline. After that first section everything moves at a breath-taking speed with visceral action. Hurley's style is close to that of Paolo Bacigalupi, but the influence of the New Weird kings Mieville and VanderMeer can also be seen. Yet I found God's War more approachable and much more action oriented.

Hurley has landed and she brings the toughness out of all her characters pushing them beyond their limits while laying the ground for larger engagements that will surely exploit this world to the utmost. Ultimately, God's War is Nyx's story of survival and fighting for what she believes in. The problem is she can't decide what that is. Hopefully she'll find out as the series progresses.

Hurley belongs in the new class of Sci-Fi authors we've been waiting for to invigorate the genre along the sides of Rajaniemi, Bacigalupi, and Yu although each brings different skills to the table. I give God's War 9 out of 10 hats. There are a lot of big questions unanswered about this world that will keep me coming back for more of what Hurley is serving such as were the bugs native to the planet or were they made? God's War is the first in a planned trilogy with the sequel Infidel schedule for later this year.

You Might Also Like:
REVIEW | The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
REVIEW | How to Live Safely In a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
REVIEW | The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
REVIEW | Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky
REVIEW | Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
LOOKING FORWARD | Science Fiction Books to Watch for in 2011


redhead said...

I've been hearing about this title here and there, but never knew the premise of the story, and it sounds awesome! unique yet familiar, fast paced, danger. . . sign me up!

Stefan said...

Coincidence - I just saw your tweet with this review 30 seconds after uploading my own review to Fantasy Literature. It should be posted in the next day or two. My ideas echo yours to a large extent, although I had more problems with characterization (esp. the side characters, not Nyx and Rhys) and with accessibility. Amazing world-building though, and gorgeous prose. I gave it 3.5 stars, so I guess that'd be 7 hats on your scale :) Still, very impressive for a debut! I can't wait to see what she comes up with next - think there's another novel on the way, set in the same universe, called "Infidel"...

Todd Jordan said...

Glad you reviewed this work.
It was recommended by Amazon to me.

Something different here for sure, and bugpunk term is great!

I'm adding this to the wishlist.


Brenda said...

Great review--another book for the TBR list.

Frida Fantastic said...

Great review! I agree on your comment regarding on gender and sexuality, some of it is quite subversive and yet none of it felt forced, it was a natural part of world-building.

Anonymous said...

Takeshi Kovacs has a sister?

Mad Hatter Review said...

Good one! And not far off the mark.