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God's War (Bel Dame Apocrypha) (edition 2011)

by Kameron Hurley

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4523323,073 (3.66)28
Member:etimme
Title:God's War (Bel Dame Apocrypha)
Authors:Kameron Hurley
Info:Night Shade Books (2011), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:read 2012, to review

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God's War by Kameron Hurley

Recently added bylesmel, ms529212, Gelderbach, Lin-Z, private library, apfergus, pwaites, kateminasian, skak, imyril
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    Perdido Street Station by China Miéville (electronicmemory)
    electronicmemory: Two excellent examples of twisted, dark and brutal stories with unexpected sci-fi/fantasy elements and engrossing worlds.
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» See also 28 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Opening line: “Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.”

I really liked this one, but a few issues hold it back from being a four star or higher book.

The planet of Umayma has been settled for roughly three thousand years. For the last few centuries, it has been consumed by a holy war between two of its countries. It’s an all consuming sort of war that sucks in the vast majority of young men through a mandatory draft and spits out bodies and scarred survivors.

Nyx is a former bel dame, a government assassin who takes the heads off deserters. She is mostly focused on her own survival, but when aliens come to Umayma claiming to be able to end the war, Nyx becomes wrapped up in something she never expected.

I loved the setting and world building. Umayma is a hostile planet, full of harsh sunlight and strange diseases. Its residents regularly have to get cancer scraped off, and replacing body parts is a matter of course. The planet was originally settled by Muslim colonists as a haven to practice their faith, and three thousand years later Islam still has a large impact upon the world.

Centuries of holy war have also shaped the world. The country Nyx hails from has become a matriarchy, since there’s hardly any men around given that the vast majority are forced to the war front. God’s War uses the constant warfare to explore how both societies react and as part of its larger exploration of gender and sexuality (the protagonist, Nyx, is bisexual).

The technology is based of controlling insects, and the people with this talent are known as magicians. Besides the fact of its existence, this skill was not explained, and I wish that it could have been explored to a greater extent.

One of the strongest aspects of God’s War is its characters – they all feel like living breathing people, complete with character flaws. Nyx herself is a wonderful anti-heroine who’s making it onto my lists of all time favorite protagonists. She’s been through hell for duty and honor and now will only risk her life for cold hard cash.

“Nyx had wanted to be the hero of her own life. Things hadn’t turned out that way. Sometimes she thought maybe she could just be the hero of someone else’s life, but there was no one who cared enough about her to keep her that close. Hell, there was nobody she’d let that close. No one wanted a hero who couldn’t even save herself.”

While Nyx was the central character, other’s also had POV chapters. Rhys was the most significant of these. In many ways, he served as a foil for Nyx. While he had a tendency to be holier-than-thou, I liked him overall and found his POV interesting.

However, God’s War wasn’t simple to read. The world is radically different from our own (and often unexplained) and something about the writing doesn’t really facilitate an easy reading. I was constantly reading back over paragraphs and lines to make sure that I understood them. There was another section where I skimmed over a few times to try and figure out if a character was present.

The plot was also thin or confusing in places. I’m still not entirely sure what happened or how certain events were significant.

I would not recommend this for anyone unfamiliar with science fiction. You’ve got to have practice diving into a very different world and trying to pick up context clues to figure it out when it goes unexplained. I just can’t see someone who doesn’t read a lot of science fiction or fantasy having a good time with it.

On the other hand, if you’ve already got practice reading genre works, you may very well want to pick up God’s War. It’s got a brilliantly inventive setting and a diverse cast of well realized characters.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Nov 23, 2014 |
I really liked this book. I liked it so much I don't really trust my review of it, because I'm well aware that I'm blind to the book's flaws.

I'm especially fond of the character Nyx. She is balanced in a place that I find absolutely fascinating. She's not a complete femme fatale a la Linda Fiorentino's Wendy Kroy in The Last Seduction, but she isn't female hero in the mold of Buffy Summers or Sookie Stackhouse who balances her strength with her vulnerability. Nyx operates only from a position of strength and refuses to acknowledge her own weakness and vulnerabilities. What makes this particular character so fascinating is that she still *has* weaknesses and vulnerabilities and the flaws in her approach are apparent. Nyx is aware of her limitations, but is just too stubborn to give up. She is who she is

This innate stubbornness and unwillingness to accept her limitations is key to who she is. It has its best expression in her relationship with Rhys. Rhys is another character worth his weight in gold. He's a coward and plays the kind of role usually relegated to the pretty girl in a boy's adventure story. He's pretty and smart, but a little delicate and not quite strong enough to get by on his own, so he needs someone like Nyx to look out for him. I really liked reading how Hurley wrote him. In this classic reversal of gender roles, she writes the "princess" character better than all those boys writing their rescue fantasies.

The plot was also good, and I enjoyed the film noire type twists and turns at the end, but what really sold me on this book and the Bel Dame Apocrypha in general was the characters of Nyx and Rhys and how they move around each other in the world. ( )
1 vote nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
Tiptree shortlist 2011.
Despite being unremittingly grim and violent, and a bit confused at times, the story did draw me in. ( )
  SChant | Apr 15, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Overall the book is a compelling read, feeling like a future-flung, bio-magic version of the Gulf War; The God’s War has all the brutality and futility of a conflict with no winners, in which both external and internal landscapes are broken and bereft.
 
Are you frustrated with Mary Sue heroines? Well, here comes God's War to rock your face off.
added by karenb | editio9, Kelly Faircloth (Apr 1, 2011)
 
... the story is highly engaging once it starts, and Hurley smoothly handles tricky themes such as race, class, religion, and gender without sacrificing action.
added by karenb | editPublishers Weekly (Dec 20, 2010)
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kameron Hurleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Palumbo, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159780214X, Paperback)

Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn t make any difference...

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there's one thing everybody agrees on--

There's not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war--but at what price?

The world is about to find out.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:26 -0400)

"On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there's one thing everybody agrees on-- There's not a chance in hell of ending it. Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war-- but at what price? The world is about to find out"--Back cover.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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