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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.

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