A Memory Called Empire

[Amazon Link]

It's a perfect opportunity to mention that I don't consider these book posts to be "reviews". Book reviews are professionally done, ideally by people with a deep grounding in the subject or genre. They are, or should be, at least a semi-objective indication of a book's quality, fitting it into the overall galaxy of other works.

In contrast, I consider these posts to be "book reports". You know, like the ones we used to do back in school. (Do kids still do book reports?) They are simply my subjective take on the book. Basically, whether I enjoyed the read or not. A little bit about what happens (fiction) or the topic (non-fiction). Our motto here: Your Mileage May Vary.

And I'm willing to admit that could be the case here. A Memory Called Empire won the Hugo Award last year for best SF novel. See the Amazon page for other huzzahs and honors; there are a lot of 'em. But I didn't care for it at all, totally not my cup of tea. I'm probably wrong. If you're thinking about reading it, go ahead.

The book follows the journey of a young female ambassador, Mahit Dzmare, as she takes over the job of representing the interests of Lsel Station to the seat of the massive galactic empire, Teixcalaan. She's a replacement for the 20-year veteran in the position, who was (oh oh) apparently murdered. And Teixcalaan is making overtures toward a forced annexation of Lsel. And there's aliens. And civil unrest. And nasty high-stakes intrigue about the successor to the ailing emperor.

So there's a lot going on. Mahit picks up Teixcalaan allies, most notably spunky liaison Three Seagrass. (All the Teixcalaanlitzim have Number Noun names like that.) And (in theory) she's got a neural implant bearing the memories and personality of her dead predecessor. Unfortunately it's fifteen years old and (worse) it goes kerflooey early on in the proceedings, causing consternation and other psychic travail.

And all this I found completely uninteresting. Didn't care about Mahit, any of the supporting characters, or what happens to them. I thought the writing was overwrought, the authorial subtext being Whee! Look at me! I'm writing!. I note that the author, Arkady Martine, is a lesbian (book flap: "… lives in Baltimore with her wife …") and the minimal amount of sex in the book is same-sex. I can't help but wonder if the Hugo voters are rewarding Ms. Martine more for her pigeonhole than for the quality of her writing.

No, I'm probably wrong. Go read it, see what you think.