Skip to main content

Occasional Media Consumption: Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir

There is -- I won't say no trick, but perhaps -- very little trick to introducing the reader to a character and then making us like that character. An author can make it a bit harder for themselves by making the character somewhat disagreeable, at least at the start, but eventually we get to the bits where the character does something good and then we like them. An author can do this in reverse, too: show the reader a character, and them make us not like that character. Arguably, it's slightly easier, because we just see the character being an asshole, and then we don't like them. But there is a positive magic in the trick of taking a character, and making us not like them, and then changing our minds. It's a hell of a trick, too. We're introduced to a character, and then the do something disagreeable or assholish, and then we don't like the character. And then, little by little, the author peels back the layers, and suddenly we understand. The character was likable the whole time; we just didn't have the right point of view.

The amazing thing about Gideon the Ninth is that Tamsyn Muir doesn't just content herself with doing one of these tricks. Oh no; one is not enough. We must see them all. We must see the character who we are meant to like, and like them. And we must see the character we are meant to like, and then learn to dislike them. And we must see the character we are meant to dislike, and then we must learn, without that character changing, that in fact we should like them instead. I cannot think of another novel in recent history where the learning arc of the story was driven by the reader rather than any character in the novel. It's brilliant and defiant and a gigantic risk and the fact that Tamsyn Muir sticks the landing makes me, frankly, angry that I hadn't discovered her before now. It's pretty common for me to have an emotional reaction to a book, but it's rare for me to cry for the villain of a piece; and for this one, I was weeping openly as the climax roared through me.

The closest I can come to a summation of the story is "In a Warhammer 40K universe, a cozy murder mystery appears" and that ignores entirely the lesbian romance subplots and the goth-swordmaster-wearing-aviators eponymous main character.

It will be a travesty if this book doesn't win a Nebula. It will be a crime if it doesn't win a Hugo. And I can't wait to see what comes next, not just for these characters, but from the author.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

JoCoCruise: Remembering the Feeling

We drove up to Seattle, because there are no direct flights from Portland to Fort Lauderdale, but there are from Seattle to FLL. Here's the tricky bit: the nonstop Alaska flight from SEA to FLL is a redeye. It arrives at 6AM local time in Florida. Programming note: this was not a great idea.


I'm just too old to do redeyes; I can't sleep and I can't go without sleep and this makes me very, very cranky. Our next trip out to Fort Lauderdale will have to be done differently, for sure. The flight had several mechanical difficulties which resulted in us not taking off for more than two hours, including 90 minutes sitting on the tarmac at the gate while they double-checked everything to make sure things weren't going to break. That was actually fine with me; the longer we waited to take off, the later we landed. (I have a whole bit in my talk about Support about five nines and moving parts and the 737 so I'll spare you the repeat and let you watch it yourself here.) M…

Occasional Media Consumption: Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire

The most amazing thing to me, in a book filled with amazing things, is that McGuire never addresses the title choice of the book, and yet it was perfectly, brilliantly obvious from about a third of the way in. No, I won't spoil it; I'm not an asshole. But it is amazing, and exactly appropriate for the story being told. There are a LOT of things being juggled in this book. Pairs of characters. Solo characters. Histories. Magic. The modern world. Alchemy. The hidden corners everywhere in the world, and some of the people who live there. And the places that exist in the social unconscious, that are there but not there any longer.

It's hard to talk about this book without spoiling it, because many of the choices the author makes are so outside the norm of the genre that to give them away is to take away from the ingeniousness of the move itself. But in the same way, I've also read several books that leverage exactly the same tropes and choices in similar ways, to great and…

Occasional Media Consumption: Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

It entirely escaped my memory that, while on my cruise, I finished Elizabeth Bear's new novel, Ancestral Night, and hadn't managed to review it yet, because I spent so much time gushing about it while on the boat. Like, honestly, for a couple of days it was my opening conversational gambit: "Hi! Have you read Ancestral Night? Yes? Let's talk about it! No? You should read it right now!"

So yes, this is going to be a positive review, in case you hadn't guessed.

As a fan of Star Trek and Ian Banks' Culture novels, I can absolutely see the underpinnings of the Synarche (and the dark mirror of the Freeporters) present in this novel, which I desperately hope is about to become a series. The main characters in the story are two humans, two cats, a giant preying mantis, and an AI and all of them have hidden fracture-points and surprising secrets that are hidden, sometimes even from the person who's hiding them. And like the best parts of ST and Culture storie…