Women who rock . . . and so much more
Posted February 26, 2011on:
The planet Umayma was colonized milennia ago, but it’s still an awful place to live. No amount of terraforming could cure the biological agents that crawl the land and poison the water, or downsize the mutant flesh eating bugs that are now used as weapons. Nowhere and nothing is safe on Umayma, and it’s people are still fighting the religious wars of eons past.
Nyxnissa isn’t all that different from the rest of the women she knows. She spent her best years at the war front with the men, came home in pieces, and later joined up with the government assassins. Then she made a very expensive mistake. one year in prison later, she’s still running from the government and makes ends meet as a streetwise bounty hunter.
Make no mistake, Umayma is not a pretty place, and God’s War is not a pretty book. Nyx still lives the life of a soldier, she drinks, she gambles, she tumbles into bed with whoever strikes her fancy, she gets into street brawls with people who don’t strike her fancy. But like I said, she’s not much different from the rest of the women she knows. There is language, and inferred and overt violence. Welcome to life in the country of Nasheen.
I’ve been reading a lot of what I tend to call “boy-books” lately. You know, books with very few female characters, books that wouldn’t even dream of the Bechdel test? Hurley takes my idea of a “boy book” and 100% flips it on it’s head. God’s War is an intense action packed high speed ride, and in Nasheen, men are seen as the weaker sex, if they are seen at all. In Nasheen, if you’re a man you’re either at the war front or there is something so wrong with you that even the military doesn’t want you. For the first 50 pages I had to keep reminding myself that most of these characters are women. I’m just not used to that. It was pretty damn cool.
God’s War is getting a lot of attention for having a female protagonist who kicks some major ass. But it has so much more to offer. I could happily read an entire novel about Nyx’s not-so-talented magician Rhys. That man has every possibly strike against him and remains 100% secrets. The opposite of Nyx in every way, Rhys will follow her to the ends of the earth, even if it means going home.
Budding authors take note: you want to know how to do that “show me don’t tell me” trick? Read this book. Read every sentence. Hurley’s writing is full of descriptive wonder, of an almost M. John Harrison-y, Jeff Vandermeer-y appreciation for intense color, smell, and sound. She’s not giving physical descriptions of Nasheen and it’s population, so much as offering a depth of experience, an intimate knowing, so that when the reader closes their eyes, they will hear, smell, and see Umayma.
Beyond all of that is the unique magic and technology of God’s War. This “bugpunk” is everything from magicians being able to call insects to protect things and do their bidding, to resources and building materials and biological weapons made from bug parts and secretions. It’s just one more level of Umayma not being a friendly place to live.
I feel terrible saying that the action sequences? the kick-ass-ness? That was the weakest part of the book. Only because I can honestly say that the technology, the world building, the culture ,and the religious politics of the story are far more interesting and compelling.
I am most curious to see what Hurley comes up with next.