Thursday, October 03, 2019

Book Review: Gideon the Ninth by Muir

I was really ready to adore this book. Humanity has spread through the universe and (at least part of it) is currently ruled by a necromantic god-emperor who apparently at some point resurrected humanity from extinction (or, at least, a sizeable portion of it?) The Emperor instituted Nine Houses, ruled by powerful necromancers, each with its own character and bailiwick. The empire is tottering, shot through with rot and decay (as you’d expect from an empire built upon necromancy) and most of the Emperor’s champions, super-powered necromancers called Lictors, have fallen over the myriads since the founding of the Empire.

And yes, “myriad” is the right word here, used frequently in the book in its archaic meaning of “a unit of ten thousand.” My inner word-geek squealed in delight at this.

And our heroine spends most of the book running around wearing an almost-kinda black trench coat, totally ‘80s mirrored shades, and a rapier. And she spurts ‘80s quips like a gay action-hero.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Grade A Brian bait.


You knew there had to be a “but,” right? Brian only giving three stars to a story that looks like it was based on notes by Clark Ashton Smith but strained through ‘80s action and anime tropes? That blurs the line between sci-fi and fantasy? What gives?

What gives is the plot. It’s a mess. Our heroine is enslaved by a sadistic necromancer princess. Their relationship is… plot-convenient? It’s not so much that I didn’t buy it, but rather that I picked up the wrong signals. Our introduction to their relationship felt less like the opening to a romance/buddy cop thing and more like setting the stage of a nasty revenge. Rather than helping us to like both of these characters and straining at the antagonism that separates them, I started off hating the princess and never really warmed to her.

These two are summoned by the Emperor to a conclave of the scions of the Nine Houses (each accompanied by a body-guard/champion and no one else) to a decaying palace on a distant world. Once they get there and we’ve met the other scions and their attendant cavaliers, things devolve quickly into Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians.

Things are made worse by the antagonisms of the various scions. Instead of working together (something that should be the obvious move once you understand the rules of the game, since it’s nearly impossible for anyone to succeed without cooperation), they assume (for no good reason I could discern) that only a few can rise to Lictor in spite of being told outright that it’s the Empreror’s dearest hope that they all achieve that status.

But you can’t really blame the scions, because the Emperor himself set this up in an incredibly stupid way. Shuttles we are told are “valuable” are tossed into the ocean and sunk instead of merely being flown away. The rules are poorly explained and even more poorly enforced. Once the secret of attaining Lictorhood is understood, the most devout house of Emperor-worshippers declares that such a thing is blasphemy and does its best to prevent anyone from becoming a Lictor, to the point of actually attempting to murder the other scions.

It’s a neat premise described with excellent word-smithing that falls utterly apart if you poke at it at all.

Still, it’s a fun read for all that. Just understand that this is a romance/mystery/thriller sort of thing, much more Ten Little Indians meets Jane Eyre in space with skeletons than Dune. Also, it’s of the more prudish sort of romances, where things never get to the point where fade-to-black is necessary. Don’t let the frequent references to dirty magazines and the course language of our protagonist fool you on that point, either. This romance is headed towards a union that is purely symbolic and spiritual, so if you’re looking for torrid lesbian shenanigans, this ain’t your book. If you’re cool with all that, and turning off your brain to avoid “fridge logic,” there’s a fun little romp here for you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WHATS APP: +2347012841542

I want to thank DR EMU for the wonderful work he done for me and my family, i was having a serious breakup with my ex but when i contacted him for help he brought him back to me with his historical powers, and also helping me to get a job, since he cast his spell for me things has really be good to me and since i know him my husband has been faithful to me, well i will say that this man is a really great spell caster that every one must contact for help, if you are facing breakup or marriage problem just contact this man for help he will help you settle everything with his power, please contact him on his email: once you contact him all your problems will be solve.