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Occasional Media Consumption: The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley

There's been a lot of discussion recently (well, in my spheres anyway) of whether someone who considers themselves a "fan" of SF/F should or needs to read the "classics" before really understanding the current mise-en-scène of the genre. Setting aside for the nonce what absolute garbage gatekeeping bullshit this is, the definitive answer to that question is answered by Kameron Hurley's Light Brigade, and that answer is "Fuck, no."

If you want to, then there's no reason why you shouldn't read Heinlein's Starship Troopers, and then Haldeman's The Forever War, and then Scalzi's Old Man's War before taking on Light Brigade; but that's optional. Light Brigade is sufficient unto itself as a story and also as an answer to these previous works. As I said before, because we stand on the shoulders of giants does not mean we must worship at their feet, and there's no worship in this book; just a clear grasp of the ideas and conversations that came before, and Hurley's particular, peculiar, and brilliant responses to those who came before.

It's clearly a Hurley novel: dirty, explosive, gritty, difficult, and more than a little queer. Which is precisely what I want and why I'll always, always read a Hurley novel, nevermind the genre. But it is also a Hurley novel in that it is bleak, and angry, and painful; but also somehow sweet, and above all hopeful. The fact that the last three pages made me cry wasn't exactly unexpected, but it was certainly cathartic. This book winds your heart like a rubber-band, and the letting go is amazingly satisfying.

Like Jeanette Winterson's Art and Lies, this book is luminous; it contains and is made of and emits light in a way that leaves me half-convinced that if I left the book open on my bedside table it would cast shadows on the wall. And I think you should definitely read it too. Be the light.

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