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Nyx is a bel dame, a bounty hunter paid to collect the heads of deserters – by almost any means necessary. ‘Almost’ proved to be the problem. Cast out and imprisoned for breaking one rule too many, Nyx and her crew of mercenaries are all about the money. But when a dubious government deal with an alien emissary goes awry, her name is at the top of the list for a covert recov Nyx is a bel dame, a bounty hunter paid to collect the heads of deserters – by almost any means necessary. ‘Almost’ proved to be the problem. Cast out and imprisoned for breaking one rule too many, Nyx and her crew of mercenaries are all about the money. But when a dubious government deal with an alien emissary goes awry, her name is at the top of the list for a covert recovery. While the centuries-long war rages on only one thing is certain: the world’s best chance for peace rests in the hands of its most ruthless killers. . .


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Nyx is a bel dame, a bounty hunter paid to collect the heads of deserters – by almost any means necessary. ‘Almost’ proved to be the problem. Cast out and imprisoned for breaking one rule too many, Nyx and her crew of mercenaries are all about the money. But when a dubious government deal with an alien emissary goes awry, her name is at the top of the list for a covert recov Nyx is a bel dame, a bounty hunter paid to collect the heads of deserters – by almost any means necessary. ‘Almost’ proved to be the problem. Cast out and imprisoned for breaking one rule too many, Nyx and her crew of mercenaries are all about the money. But when a dubious government deal with an alien emissary goes awry, her name is at the top of the list for a covert recovery. While the centuries-long war rages on only one thing is certain: the world’s best chance for peace rests in the hands of its most ruthless killers. . .

30 review for God's War

  1. 4 out of 5

    carol.

    Review and links (if you want explanation on the references and the like) at https://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2015/... I grew up in the 80s, when fantasy fiction largely meant the Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy world or the ‘parallel worlds’ fantasy, the same fantasy setting juxtaposed with the real world. It wasn’t until much later that I understood most of the fantasy settings I read were based on a highly sanitized Western medieval framework (Do I hear George Costanza in the background saying, Review and links (if you want explanation on the references and the like) at https://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2015/... I grew up in the 80s, when fantasy fiction largely meant the Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy world or the ‘parallel worlds’ fantasy, the same fantasy setting juxtaposed with the real world. It wasn’t until much later that I understood most of the fantasy settings I read were based on a highly sanitized Western medieval framework (Do I hear George Costanza in the background saying, “not that there’s anything wrong with that“?) I’ve found that those familiar types of settings and stories no longer hold my interest to the same degree. I live in a world that is broader, more complicated, and more importantly, has even more stories to offer that reflect different cultures and perspectives. The most satisfying stories have echoed that philosophy, stretching genre conventions, drawing upon a wider range of cultural traditions and bridging genres. God’s War has earned a place on my shortlist of fantasy books that are able to successfully breathe fresh air into the fantasy genre. Nyxnissa is a bel dame (echoing the “Belle Dame sans Merci“) who has made her living as an assassin for the government of Nasheen, hunting down the men who have deserted posts at the war front. She’s fallen on hard times, however, and also works as a bounty hunter bringing in thieves or those dealing in illegal gene trading. Lately she’s doing a bit of that black market gene transporting as well. After serving a prison sentence, she gives up the independent work and recruits a crew. When Nyx is called to the palace by the Queen, she and her team are given a job they can’t refuse: hunting down an alien woman who has disappeared, likely into the enemy territory of Chenja. Rhys is a magician and immigrant from Chenja, where women wear the veil and men are head of household. When Nyx is recruiting for her team, Rhys agrees to work with her. The plotting says ‘heist,’ but the setting says “Middle East in space.” It seems this world began centuries ago when it was settled by colonists from another world. Their world is at the edge of the space routes and as they’ve elected not to modernize their spaceport, off-world visitors are rare, leaving the colonists isolated. For over a century, Nasheen and Chenja have been at war. Although very different culturally, they share a similar religious foundation: all consider themselves “People of the Book” (being ill-versed in world religions, I only thought of People of the Book, not of the more germane “monotheistic Abrahamic religions“). (This is one book I would have benefited by reading on Kindle with Wikipedia at hand). Nyx’ disenchantment with her own religion and Rhys’ dedication to his provide an interesting contrast and social commentary. Social and religious divisions are further complicated by a marginalized class of people who have carry shapeshifting genetics. She didn’t much like the stink and crowd of cities, but you could lose yourself in a city a lot more easily than you could out in farming communities like Mushirah. She had run to the desert and the cities for anonymity. And to die for God. None of that had worked out very well. Nasheen is a matriarchal government and culture; men are sent off to war and only allowed home if they reach forty. Sexuality is open and lesbian relationships are normalized, although male homosexuality is still somewhat hidden. I was half-expecting the Women’s Studies 1o1 version of matriarchy, but instead Hurley is far more nuanced. Male or female; everyone has mixed motives; varied upbringings and ethics–or lack thereof–drive them towards their decisions. As is often noted, everyone is fighting the war in their own way. The preponderance of bugs in the magicians’ quarters made his blood sing, as if he was attuned to a bit of everything, able to touch and manipulate pieces of the world. He felt more alive here than he had anywhere else in his life, among those who spent their days coming up with new and interesting ways to kill his people. Then there are the bugs, a world-building aspect that takes the story to a whole new level of uniqueness. Some people–‘magicians’–have the ability to manipulate the bugs and their energy. Some of the technology is hybrid-organic, and the bugs play a role in powering vehicles, lighting rooms and in healing. Magicians are the only men granted an exception to serving at the war front. It’s a complicated set-up with a non-English foundations and Hurley doesn’t handhold. I thought it flowed reasonably well given the range of components, but it was the kind of wind that pushes you a little harder, making for an exhilarating sail. The first forty pages are virtually an independent short story; the development of the larger plot comes later, with roots in the prologue. The story ‘works’ in the China Miéville sense (and I’m thinking of Embassytown here), so take that for what it’s worth; people who don’t read much in sci-fi or fantasy may wish for more explanation and those who have little tolerance for gender dynamics might find themselves irritated. I thought the relatively straightforward plot balanced the complicated setting and ethical issues nicely. It was engrossing, interesting, and occasionally melancholic. Nyx is truly a belle dame sans merci– she has a very bloody, culturally sanctioned job, but her lack of compassion also extends to herself. It reminded me of the torturer Glokta in Abercrombie’s The First Law series, or the lead in Best Served Cold. It provides an avenue for compassionate development of a deeply flawed human.Without doubt, God’s War deserves its Nebula nomination–as well as the Arthur C. Clarke and British Sci-Fi Association nominations. That said, I’m not sure everyone would enjoy it. But if you are looking for complicated, unusual fantasy with a fast-moving plot, give this a try. I’ll certainly be moving on to the next in the series,Infidel Four and a half bloody stars Insights on Hurley's background research: https://www.tor.com/2013/01/15/sleeps...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    This book doesn’t take it easy on the reader. It’s dark and complex, bleak and viscerally brutal, and very unpleasant — and so very good. “Life was what you did with what was done to you.” It’s a story set in a brutal and f*cked up place (I mean, if you ever thought that the world of A Game of Thrones was cold and cruel, I got news for you — that was a generic hard-ish fantasy world that this one would eat for a snack). “The desert stayed flat and white all day. Rhys saw more evidence of re This book doesn’t take it easy on the reader. It’s dark and complex, bleak and viscerally brutal, and very unpleasant — and so very good. “Life was what you did with what was done to you.” It’s a story set in a brutal and f*cked up place (I mean, if you ever thought that the world of A Game of Thrones was cold and cruel, I got news for you — that was a generic hard-ish fantasy world that this one would eat for a snack). “The desert stayed flat and white all day. Rhys saw more evidence of recent fighting as they drove - spent bursts and abandoned artillery, black-scarred rents in the desert, pools of dead bugs. He saw a heap of burning corpses in the distance. He knew there were corpses because the giant scavengers were circling, despite the smoke: couple of sand cats, black swarms that must have been palm-sized carrion beetles, and some of the rarer flying scavenger beetles with hooked jaws, the kind that grew to over a meter long and had been known to devour children in their beds.” It’s a story of brutal and genuinely messed up people. And when I say messed up I do NOT mean “the lovable rogue with a heart of gold who occasionally attractively broods darkly and whose flaws are actually good qualities because they care too much” trope. These are people that lived through genuinely hard times and had to adapt to them to survive. Those are not the people that survive life-altering events like nothing happened and then go on to have well-adjusted lives with honest work and faithful companions and true love and 2.4 kids behind a picket fence. They are awful people who sometimes band together out of necessity, but still remain awful and damaged in the ways they can’t recover from. Those are the people for whom traumas of life have real consequences. ____ “There had been dog carcasses in the alley behind her storefront this morning, fat rats squealing over tidbits, old women netting roaches for stews. The accumulated filth of rotting tissue, blood, sand, and the stench of human excrement had sent Rhys out onto the veldt for dawn prayer, and Nyx had grudgingly agreed to take the bakkie out to pick him up.” It’s not a fantasy or SF that is pleasing based on the familiarity and predictability. It’s not the Tolkien view of Western medieval setting reimagined. “Bugs were popular trade with the magicians in Faleen. Professional creepers caught up to three kilos a day—striped chafers, locusts, tumblebugs, spider wasps, dragonflies, pselaphid beetles, fungus weevils—and headed to the magicians’ gym to trade them in for opium, new kidneys, good lungs, maybe a scraping or two to take off the cancers.” The setting is Middle Eastern inspired, on a backwoods planet settled a few millennia prior and now descended into endless “God’s War” involving mutagens and firepower and magic and gene pirates and technology based on harnessing local insects. Society is brutal, cruel, ruthless, with little regard for lives, and the only difference between raging matriarchy and raging patriarchy is only in who gets to dole out cruelty more freely. In this world we have a mercenary bounty hunter crew headed by Nyx, a deeply f*cked up person. It’s a ragtag bunch of people - but without the requisite witty banter expected from lovable rogues because they are anything but. There is still friendship and respect — but also deep-seated resentments and practicality and mistrust and despising one another and betrayals and enough big and small politics to fill several books of this size, and torture and death and all the things that will make you hate everyone and root for the lesser evil at best. They don’t overcome their differences but let instead those differences tear them apart. By the end I hated almost everyone — but I loved how complex and messed up they all were. But if you must have likable characters that you love to root for — well, this may not be a good fit for you. They are not nice. They are not likable. They are just varying degrees of awful. And I loved how well it was done. “She had no magical ability, so the face he gazed into carried no illusions. She'd never tried to be anything but what she was, for him or anyone else. She was thirty-two years old, and looked ten years older. Born on the coast, raised in the interior, burned at the front, a woman who was alive only because behind her was a long line of dead men. And women.” Hurley does not handhold her readers. There’s no exposition or much explanation, and the learning curve is steep. It’s sink or swim in the unfamiliar strange world, and if you are patient you’ll put together a semi-coherent picture of it — as long as you put any reservations you may have about bugs aside. Because there will be at least a few roaches mentioned per page without fail. “Organic filters were a necessity in a country bombarded by all manner of biological, half-living, semi-organic weaponry. Destruction entered cities as often through contaminated individuals as it did through munitions.” It’s not a book for the squeamish. It’s dark and unpleasant. It does not cut anyone much slack. It can be depressing as hell once you actually try to envision the ruthless societies in the ruthless world and really think about how f*cked up things are and how little differences there are between greater evils and lesser evils. But it’s written so well. And it does make you think — about societal norms and exclusions and religious intolerances and wars and sheer relativity what passes for morals and justice. Even if you feel like someone spat in your very soul by the end. It’s hard to get into because everything is just so repulsively unlikeable and so oppressively weird — but once you let the story carry you along, it’s difficult to put it down. Yes, I will certainly read the rest of the series — because even if this one can easily be viewed as a standalone, I masochistically crave to see more of this messed up world. Even if I truly hate bugs. And I will hope for a future that is not immersed in any religious wars. For all of our sakes. 4.5 stars. “You’ll never control a world you don’t understand. They’d been bleeding and dying for three thousand years on this planet, and nobody’d taken the time to understand it. They just wanted to control it.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    Buddy read with my lovely MacHalo’s Just no... Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

  4. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I picked this up after reading the first few sentences online: "Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert. Drunk, but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoky cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jaks, and lost it two rounds later when Jaks hit the floor like an antique harem girl." That is a kick-ass entry to a story, if you ask me. Hang on, this is a long review. This is...s I picked this up after reading the first few sentences online: "Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert. Drunk, but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoky cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jaks, and lost it two rounds later when Jaks hit the floor like an antique harem girl." That is a kick-ass entry to a story, if you ask me. Hang on, this is a long review. This is...science fiction adventure noir, maybe? It's a world of (mostly) post-apocalyptic Muslims of varying degrees of recognizability, in which most technology is driven by insects. Yes. Also, the two major nations of the planet have been at war forever, and partly as a result of this women have come to dominate society. Men get drafted as boys and sent to the front--and women volunteer to fight, too. But on the home front, at least in the country where we spend the most time, women are soldiers and politicians and businesspeople and pretty much everything else. They're also brutal to each other--the main pastime seems to be boxing, and just about every woman we meet has some violent tendencies or history. This isn't a pacifist Hertopia kind of world. That's one of the things I loved about this book--its bold creation of a world where women dominate, and where women are socially, physically, and in all other ways tough and capable. Setting aside the fact that this is a world where magicians use bug technology to repair amputations and mortal injuries, the women in this world are bad-ass. Or maybe they're just people. It's a sad statement that it's so unusual to read about women in roles that men would usually fill, kicking asses and getting their asses kicked--but it is unusual. And Hurley does a great job of making her women real. I appreciated so many things about this book--that the dominant religious ideology was Muslim rather than Christian, that the main characters are almost all non-white, that our antihero Nyx isn't a stick figure, and that she doesn't stay pretty. There's a phenomenon in novels and movies that feature "strong" or "kick-ass" women (cf. Tomb Raider, Charlie's Angels, Kill Bill, Underworld, et al)--let's call it the "reasonable facsimile" phenomenon. It's when authors or directors decide they're going to capitalize on a trend provide a strong female role model--and they do so by casting a skinny white girl in a tank top, and telling her to look brooding. Usually the reasonable facsimile doesn't have a realistic or profound story arc, or much character development (if she's a secondary character she may be defined solely by a skill, like rock climbing), or much to do besides fake-fight guys who would kick her ass in real life, because she has wrists like twigs and has clearly come from the Fighting School of Pilates. Seriously, watching Michelle Rodriguez decline from her tough, meaty role in Girlfight to the dumb bullshit action stuff she does now...that's the reasonable facsimile tragedy, right there. But anyway. I loved that this book doesn't dredge up the reasonable facsimile. Nyx, as a protagonist, is thorny and crude and rebarbative, she's physically large and strong, she carries weight both literally and figuratively. She has a full, complete character arc, a history, and (presumably) a future--since this is the first book in a trilogy. I admit I didn't follow all the political intrigue in this one, but that's me--I tend to read lightly over that stuff, and dwell more in the scenes. And it's possible that some of that explanation got a little convoluted, in an effort to propel us to the ending. I can forgive that, because the world of the book is so original and well-imagined, and because I liked the characters that live in it. The second book, Infidel, just came out in October. A third is in the works. I have a feeling I'll be reading 'em.

  5. 5 out of 5

    ambyr

    Orson Scott Card talks a lot in his How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy about exposition, and about how science fiction and fantasy readers react to it with different expectations than non-genre readers. Roughly summarized, his point is that if you open a story with, "She mounted her graazchak," an experienced genre reader will think, "Huh. Okay, there's a creature called a graazchak and it can be ridden. I'll keep that in mind, and keep an eye out for more information about what it looks l Orson Scott Card talks a lot in his How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy about exposition, and about how science fiction and fantasy readers react to it with different expectations than non-genre readers. Roughly summarized, his point is that if you open a story with, "She mounted her graazchak," an experienced genre reader will think, "Huh. Okay, there's a creature called a graazchak and it can be ridden. I'll keep that in mind, and keep an eye out for more information about what it looks like and what it does." Someone who mostly reads literary fiction, on the other hand, is likely to react, "A graazchak? What the hell is a graazchak? Does the author expect me to know?" and grind to a halt. I am definitely an experienced genre reader, and I actively seek out that sense of "I don't know what's going on, but I'm sure I'll piece it together given time." God's War provides it, over and over again, from its politics to its bug-based tech to its characters' backstories. In places, though, the exposition is a little too rough even for me. Sometimes it's small things, like the interchangeable use of "sister" for both Nyx's sister-by-birth and the other bel dames in the opening chapter. If they'd consistently been, oh, I don't know, "gene sisters" and "blood sisters," I would have noted the terms, assumed they'd be defined later, and forged onward. Instead, I found myself flipping backward, trying to work out whether there were two different categories at all. Other times it's bigger things, like the timeskip after the opening chapters, which left me feeling lost and unanchored in time; lacking any clearly defined markers, I couldn't see how Nyx and Rhys's timelines were supposed to align. But I figured it out eventually, and once the story got going, the exposition got smoother. (Though there were a few places where it erred in the other direction with info dumps--Taite's backstory comes to mind here.) That let me spend more time admiring the uniqueness of the world and, more than anything, the characters. And I fell in love. Nyx, Rhys, Taite, Khos, Inaya--they are all horribly broken and horribly flawed, and I can't look away. I love that their flaws are not sexy flaws--no "too quick to anger in the face of injustice" or "a dark and brooding loner" here--and that the narrative never flinches from them, from Nyx's lack of intelligence (too many blows to the head from boxing?) and Rhys's cowardice and everything else. I love this for not being the story of how they all set aside their differences and work together, but instead how their differences tear them apart and keep tearing. I love this for telling the story of star-crossed lovers--Nyx and Rhys--kept apart not by external forces but by their own internal beliefs, which they have no interest in moving beyond. I love this for being different, for being new, for never taking me where I expected. Also the bugs are pretty nifty, and I say this as someone who shrieks and screams for back-up when she sees a spider on the kitchen floor.

  6. 5 out of 5

    jade

    “the world could burn around her, the cities turn to dust, the cries of a hundred thousand fill the air, and she would get up after the fire died and walk barefoot and burned over the charred soil in search of clean water, a weapon, a purpose. she would rebuild.” a grimdark fantasy with sci-fi elements and lots of sand and blood, god’s war has the uncanny ability to make you feel like you’re in a mad max dystopia with bugs instead of flaming-guitar rigs. yes, you heard that right. bugs “the world could burn around her, the cities turn to dust, the cries of a hundred thousand fill the air, and she would get up after the fire died and walk barefoot and burned over the charred soil in search of clean water, a weapon, a purpose. she would rebuild.” a grimdark fantasy with sci-fi elements and lots of sand and blood, god’s war has the uncanny ability to make you feel like you’re in a mad max dystopia with bugs instead of flaming-guitar rigs. yes, you heard that right. bugs. used for border control filters, cars, radio-transmissions, holograms, and even cleaning up waste from surgeries -- but more on that later. nyxnissa “nyx” so dasheem is a government-licensed assassin and bounty hunter barely scraping by. in a matriarchal, war-torn desert country, she’s the one who hunts down deserters (often teenage boys) and brings home their heads. but considering the scraping by part, she’s not above illegally smuggling genetic material or doing a few jobs on the side, either. as a result, she gets cast out of the bel dames (from ancient hebrew, meaning ‘bloody avenger’ according to the author); the aforementioned government assassins. blacklisted as she is, it gets even harder to get patched up whenever shit hits the fan, not to mention finding resources and jobs to run. the first twenty percent shows you how nyx gets tossed out of the bel dames like garbage; the rest of the book is about her going on as a rogue bounty hunter, gathering together a ramshackle crew to tackle a government-issued job. with, of course, high risk / high reward potential. and yes, you guessed it: the bel dames are none too pleased with that development. this book is raw and brutal. this is a world where no one genuinely seems to care about pretty much anything, except money and keeping the ball rolling on the war. it’s been a while since i read a grimdark story, but god’s war has all the makings of it. part of that is the central societal conflict: nyx is from nasheen, a matriarchal country which has separated religious leadership and government, currently at war with chenja, a patriarchal country where religious leaders are in charge. both countries’ main religion is one very obviously lifted from islam, with its holy book called the kitab (meaning ‘book’ in arabic / hindi, and often used to indicate holy books from other religions, such as the bible) rather than the quran. in nasheen, women are in charge and occupy pretty much all important positions in government and society. boys are sent to the warfront when they come of age, and are only allowed back in nasheen after they manage to survive until forty years of age. spoilers: not a lot of them do. men are treated very much like women are in a patriarchal society; belittled, catcalled, sexually harassed, etc. and if they try to desert from the warfront, they get murdered by bel dames like nyx. in chenja, patriarchy still rules the day. women are expected to be veiled, act modestly, and don’t fill any powerful positions within the government, which is still run by religious bigwigs. rules are much more strict regarding prayer and habits; here, too, we see rules directly taken from islam (salah times, no alcohol, etc.). both countries are constantly trying to one-up the other with dangerous chemical weapons, bombings, gene research, and so on and so forth. and they’ve been doing this basically forever. because nasheen and chenja’s populations are the descendants of space colonizers: people who were dropped on a rather uninhabitable planet (umayma) and expected to make the most of it. “you’ll never control a world you don’t understand. they’d been bleeding and dying for three thousand years on this planet, and nobody’d taken the time to understand it. they just wanted to control it.” and as the concept of space travel implies… there are also aliens present amidst all this political turmoil, who follow a different version of the holy book, and who seem at times to play one country out against another. and they are particularly interested in the bug magicians and shapeshifters on the planet. though technically a backdrop to nyx’s story, the war affects all characters and locations deeply. loyalties shift constantly, and many characters have tragic backstories related to it. hurley has indicated that her main inspiration here was the iran / iraq war, which was prolonged even further by outside influences. i have to admit, i’m kind of conflicted when it comes to the setting. first of all: i’m always happy to see settings in fantasy and sci-fi other than the ‘sanitized western medieval fantasy’ (credit to carol for that one!). and it’s obvious that hurley did a lot of research for this book; there’s very little hand-holding when it comes to arabic terms or the set-up of the worldbuilding. hurley also mentions herself in the interview linked above that upon release, some people were afraid that she might’ve written yet another “terrorists in space” book. and how god’s war might be viewed as problematic regardless of its actual content considering current biases and portrayals of the middle east. i don’t think she wrote another “terrorists in space”; the aforementioned war is not treated cheaply, and both nasheen and chenja (and people from both countries) are displayed with nuance. as in, the story does not lean in the favor of either; it’s obvious that they both have horrendous downsides to the way they handle things. i do think it’s a little strange that everyone has arabic and / or persian inspired names, but our main or main-adjacent characters all employ western first names (just to name a few; nyx, rhys, anneke, raine). next to that, this is absolutely a grimdark story about a planet forever at war. with itself, and between its people. it’s reminiscent of dune in that regard: a hostile desert planet that seems out to kill anyone that even tries to live on it (as multiple characters even comment upon). and i guess i’m just a little tired of seeing middle-eastern inspired settings so obviously wrapped up in hostility and unending war. are “exoticized” settings for western readers like this one always going to be about violent holy wars? can we only ever imagine fantasy-islam as messy and harmful? do american writers think that living in desert regions is inherently miserable and brutal? i ask these questions because hurley made a conscious choice to pull so obviously from real world history and islam, and only really changed it up by slapping a gender flip on it (to a gender essentialist matriarchy) and adding dieselpunkish bugs. i don’t know; maybe i’m being too sensitive about this. but i feel like i had to address it since it does add to certain stereotypical portrayals, and it’s less original than i’d hoped. take that as you will. so… back to that aforementioned brutality. going by the blurb, i’d expected something of a fun, banter-y, ragtag crew of misfits who band together for a hit job with a very small amount of success. what i got instead is an incredibly flawed, morally questionable, and hardened crew who are not there to bond and gently tease each other. they’re there to get the job done and walk away with the money. this is not firefly; instead, it’s disinterested and violent and even careless at times. characters make dumb mistakes, and the consequences are grim. torture, dismemberment, and death included. nyx is an intriguing main character: in the middle of a holy war, she proclaims to be an atheist; in the middle of a licensed assassins guild, she doesn’t even hesitate to pick up illegal bounties or smuggling. she drinks copious amounts of alcohol, sleeps with men and women alike to further her goals, and sells organs left and right if necessary. “you were missing a kidney,” yah tayyib said. “i replaced that as well.” “i traded it for a ticket out of chenja. the other one wasn’t mine either.” “i didn’t think it was,” he said. “why not?” “i put it in there six months ago.” “ah,” nyx said. everything about her seems inherently self-destructive, but she reflexively keeps up the walls around her true feelings and her crew does not pry. it’s not until far later in the story that you get a glimpse of what made her the way she is; an asshole who keeps walking even if her entire body’s been burnt to a crisp. her lowkey second-in-command is rhys: a pious, dark-skinned chenjan man who ran from his past and sought refuge in nasheen. he’s a magician: someone who can use pheromones to influence and manipulate the numerous bugs on the planet. he’s polite and calm, and he and nyx often have discussions about faith and religion together. living in nasheen as a dark-skinned chenjan man is obviously not very comfortable for him; he works for nyx mostly because she treats him like a regular human being and not someone to ogle or harass into submission. they find each other intriguing and tend to sort of circle around each other a bit. “oh, god, this isn’t something soft, is it?” “not everything that’s beautiful is weak.” “no, it just makes you that way.” he smiled. “we disagree, then.” “we do,” she said. i thought it was compelling, especially as they both seem to instill a calmness and comfort in each other that they usually only find through other means (rhys through his faith; nyx through her fights). despite their flaws and nyx’s body count, i found i could still root for them. as for the plot, i wouldn’t call that the strongest aspect of the novel. the first act had a very strong and intriguing start, the second act lulled a bit, and the third got a tad ludicrous with all the double-crossing and going back-and-forth. it was mostly the characters that maintained my interest, and the BUGS. yes, my precious, we’ve finally arrived: bug central. insectomania. let’s talk about it. bugs and organic tech is used for a lot in this world. glow worms in street lamps. vehicles that run entirely on ‘bug juice’ and are fully organic: no engines, but guts only. bugs can send radio signals across vast distances if the magician manipulating them is strong enough. and bug tech is always preferable to non-organic tech because it can’t be hacked! it puts magicians in a class of their own with immensely varied powers at their disposal. almost every crew runs with a magician, and the aliens are up to their eyeballs in jealousy because of that cool skill. i’m sorry, i’m obsessed with it. it’s pretty obvious from the organ and limb replacements that nyx gets that other types of organic medical technology are also pretty advanced, so where are my bug people? the magicians who’ve fused with their little critters? the assassins with no-scope-necessary bug eyes? why must i replace lost legs with another set of human legs? where are my praying mantis legs for jumping feats? cool mandibles for slitting my enemies’ throats? … you get the idea. hands down the best, most original part of the book in my opinion. so where does that leave us for the conclusion? this is a gritty, noir adventure thriller with high political stakes that centers an armed-to-the-teeth, nothing-to-lose female bounty hunter on a mission. nyx’s grim determination and the scores she has to settle was what really made this book an entertaining read for me. i wanted to know more of her story, and where she would end up. the rest of it did feel like a mixed bag; a lot of interesting concepts, but none of them seemed to fully come to fruition. i would’ve loved to see some not-so gender essentialist explorations of nasheen’s matriarchy, as well as aliens that might’ve been a bit more… well, alien. (and more bugs, damn it!) many things are not fully explained, and considering it’s a trilogy i’m pretty sure a lot of these concepts will get further developed down the line. but i’m not entirely sure if it interests me enough to finish the trilogy; if i do so, it will only be to see if my girl nyx gets the story she deserves. still: in genre-blending and bugpunk aspects, highly original and recommended if that appeals to you. ✎ 3.0 stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    I went through several transformations as I read this novel, or four if you include a priori expectations after judging a book by its cover; for some weird reason, I thought this title would be more UF than a gritty SF title that masquerades as a fantasy. It's not really as confusing as I make it out to be. No gods are involved in the telling of the tale, just a bunch of people who believe in Allah and Jehova in a far future world that seems awfully like the Gaza Strip, only filled with Magicians I went through several transformations as I read this novel, or four if you include a priori expectations after judging a book by its cover; for some weird reason, I thought this title would be more UF than a gritty SF title that masquerades as a fantasy. It's not really as confusing as I make it out to be. No gods are involved in the telling of the tale, just a bunch of people who believe in Allah and Jehova in a far future world that seems awfully like the Gaza Strip, only filled with Magicians who control bugs by their will and shapeshifters (Shifters). Traditional military hardware is available everywhere you look, too, and most of our focus is firmly on a hard-as-nails normal female. We get to see her in her youth as a part of an official assassination squad, the betrayal and her downfall, and her poverty and life as part of a small squad of bounty-hunters. I had some issue with this. The writing was rather sparse when it came to fleshing out each of the characters and it took me a long time to care who each of them were, other than Nyx, of course. And then there were long sequences in the text where I was flooded with names and names and names and very little hook to keep my interest. At that point, my hopes rested entirely on the brilliant and complex world that was being laid out before me. It was absolutely enormous and complex and well-thought out. My only concerns were with the characters. And then I had my first transformation. I didn't have a problem with the boxing, and the small squad scenes were so-so, but when Nyx and I got to spend some time alone, the text came alive. I shuddered and thanked all the stars in heaven. The novel went from burdensome to snappy. My next transformation came when the rest of the characters finally started coming to life through their choices and actions, and it took just a little bit too much time to get there, but it did, and for that, I am eternally grateful. The climax was especially personal and rich in both action and characters, and at this point, I am now a fanboy. Worldbuilding kicked this off, but eventually, the characters carried the day. I'm not going to have any issues picking up and devouring the next books, unless I have to start from scratch. :) Who knows? It's not like I've done any research on this series. This is my first Kameron Hurley book, and I'm rather impressed. It is rather dense in places and not always an easy read, but I can say it is very rich and I'm very happy to begin my journey here.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jokoloyo

    I am excited with feminism in SF or Fantasy stories, because I can expect a really different way of life/thinking, not just fictitious world with people who has same way/thinking as ours. Reading this novel gave me that. It gave more exciting to me with Middle-East like world building with its well-known social politic conflicts. Oh, I love the setting. And the main protagonist is one bad ass person. She even seems extremely bad ass due to our standard of way of thinking (e.g. she coldly sold her I am excited with feminism in SF or Fantasy stories, because I can expect a really different way of life/thinking, not just fictitious world with people who has same way/thinking as ours. Reading this novel gave me that. It gave more exciting to me with Middle-East like world building with its well-known social politic conflicts. Oh, I love the setting. And the main protagonist is one bad ass person. She even seems extremely bad ass due to our standard of way of thinking (e.g. she coldly sold her own womb). I can't give 5 star because the the story itself is not exactly match my taste. It seems unfair if I gave 5 star to first books of Malazan and First Law, but not this debut novel. My reasons are: The story and characters are too dark and a bit tedious for my taste. It does not have enough humor or heart warming dialogues. The quote on back cover from SFX mentioned this book as "fast pace thriller", but for me the story is a bit slow. If you fine with pure dark fantasy, go find this novel. There is not enough explanation of the magic system of this book, but it is common nowadays in a first book of a trilogy. Let's hope the second book has more magic system explanations. (Personally, I hope the story explains the deviations of the religion traditions on the book with current Islam from Earth).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Meagan ✊🏼 Blacklivesmatter ✊🏼Blacktranslivesmatter

    So good! I have got to stop judging books by their ratings, otherwise I would have never picked this up! I can't wait to continue this series. I have book 2 and the book of short stories on hold at the library! 😜😜 This had everything I loved in a book! Unique world building, cool magic system, bleak tone, unlikable anti-heroes (except well I really liked them all!), complicated and complex characters and relationships. I loved it! So good! I have got to stop judging books by their ratings, otherwise I would have never picked this up! I can't wait to continue this series. I have book 2 and the book of short stories on hold at the library! 😜😜 This had everything I loved in a book! Unique world building, cool magic system, bleak tone, unlikable anti-heroes (except well I really liked them all!), complicated and complex characters and relationships. I loved it!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Holly (The GrimDragon)

    “Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.” The opening line in a book is the author’s first impression. As a writer, I’ve definitely found the first and last line a beast to get right. Other times, those beginning sentences are my favorite! It all depends. As a reader, I will often get a vibe whether I’m going to love a book or not before I even open the cover and read those first lines. But damn.. it can set the mood, for sure. With God’s War, I was hooke “Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.” The opening line in a book is the author’s first impression. As a writer, I’ve definitely found the first and last line a beast to get right. Other times, those beginning sentences are my favorite! It all depends. As a reader, I will often get a vibe whether I’m going to love a book or not before I even open the cover and read those first lines. But damn.. it can set the mood, for sure. With God’s War, I was hooked immediately! Tell me the above quote doesn’t capture your attention! That sentence? It’s just the beginning of an absolutely bonkers story, setting the tone for a fucking glorious post-apocalyptic romp! “The cunt is not the heart, though a lot of people get the two confused.” Gritty, action-packed and QUEER AF. Don’t mind if I do! God’s War focuses on Nyxnissa, a former Bel Dame (government-trained assassin), who now works as a freelance bounty hunter with a dysfunctional team of misfits on the planet Umayma. Colonized over three thousand years ago by a group of Muslims known as the First Families, it was then divided into various nations with the two largest being Chenja and Nyx’s homeworld of Nasheen. These arch rivals have been part of a seemingly unending religious war for decades. The social, political, economical and cultural impacts of technology are explored in such a deeply fascinating way. Because bugs. GENETICALLY ENGINEERED BUGS!! They drive the planets technology and are used for pretty much everything, including weapons and medical procedures. Nyx works with an incredibly diverse group of people, which just makes this even more compelling. There’s the deeply religious Rhys, a failed magician (someone who is able to control insects) from Chenja; Taite, the queer communications hacker; his pregnant sister Inaya; Khos, a conflicted shapeshifter; and Anneke, an alcoholic weapons expert. Living in a brutal landscape and being products of a relentless war, the characters are understandably more than a little fucked up. They are raw and damaged and morally complex. There’s just.. there’s a lot going on in this relatively short novel and I’m not about to blather on about the synopsis. The complexity of the story, combined with the page count makes it difficult to summarize without giving too much away. God’s War is Kameron Hurley’s debut novel, which just blows my mind! It’s only her second book that I’ve read, but I’m already a massive fan! She has her own way of telling a story, getting her fingerprints all over it, creating such vividly realized, impressive worlds. This is weird as fuck at times and I think in another writer’s hands, things could go off the metaphorical rails. Have no fear! Hurley is more than capable of keeping this shit on track. There are some truly gut-punchy moments, as well as wicked gory ones. This is an adventure story about bounty hunters in the not too distant future, after all! There is a shit ton of blood spilled, many heads are chopped off, pillaging and rape is common, people are killed for being queer and discriminated against for the color of their skin. The worldbuilding is bleak and confronting. However, never once did I feel as though the brutal violence was gratuitous. Hurley manages to tell this aggressive story intelligently, in such a real way without making it feel as though it’s just a plot device. Instead, it reads as though it is a plausible, genuine future rather than a ploy to try and amp up the graphic acts of violence just because. Technology and magic; religious extremists and sex positivity; diverse characters and gender-politics; and creepy, crawly bugs. Did I mention the out of control bugs? SO MANY BUGS! God’s War is wacky and wonderful and I’m definitely jumping into the sequel soon because I too, am a grim optimist!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    On a hardscrabble alien world populated with what humanity becomes in the far future, a long holy war rages. Both sides have drafted all their men for so many generations that the societies left behind have become nearly matriarchal, populated by females, boys, and the very old or damaged men who survived their war service. Their planet is nealry deadly for humanity, and over the years its colonists have made all sorts of adjustments. Now they scrape themselves regularly for cancers the way mode On a hardscrabble alien world populated with what humanity becomes in the far future, a long holy war rages. Both sides have drafted all their men for so many generations that the societies left behind have become nearly matriarchal, populated by females, boys, and the very old or damaged men who survived their war service. Their planet is nealry deadly for humanity, and over the years its colonists have made all sorts of adjustments. Now they scrape themselves regularly for cancers the way modern people go in for dental cleanings, and reattach body parts as a matter of course. In this strange and brutal place we are introduced to Nyx, a woman who has lost her faith on the battlefield but can't let go of her own version of honor. On the very first page, Nyx sells her womb for cash, then loses it all gambling on a pretty boxer. The upside is, she gets to bed the boxer. (view spoiler)[The really badass part is that she bet on the boxer knowing she'd probably lose, and knowing that her bet would be a good in with a depressed losing boxer, who might then take her home. After sleeping with the boxer, Nyx creeps out of bed, kills the boxer's sleeping brother, and collects his head for its bounty. And then the plot starts. (hide spoiler)] After falling out with her bounty hunting sisters, Nyx gets herself a new crew: a mediocre magician, a refugee shifter, an ex-convict, and a half-breed comm tech. None of them are particularly good or well-respected, but they're bound together by Nyx's unstoppable will. Times are hard, and although they're stacking bodies like firewood in the freezer, the bounty hunts never pay quite enough. Then they get a new hunt: to find an alien gene scientist who's lost somewhere in enemy territory. The stakes have never been higher, because whoever has the alien will probably win the war. Although the plot is fast-paced, action-heavy and twisty, it's really secondary to seeing inside the characters' heads, most particularly Nyx and her bug-magician, Rhys. Nyx drinks whiskey like water, has sex with anyone she pleases, and gave up on god (or felt given up) years ago. Rhys is a refugee from the country she nearly died fighting, and is so pious he can hardly bear to pray in the presence of women. They're drawn to each other without knowing why or how, but refuse to acknowledge how much they need each other, not even to themselves. The unresolved tension between them didn't really work for me: neither of them respects or seems sexually attracted to the other, and they don't talk much, so we the reader are just told repeatedly that they feel things for each other, and that Rhys is known as her shadow. But as individual characters, they're each very well-drawn, complicated people. The 'verse Hurley has created here is novel, populated by pitiless, practical people. It's not a pleasant read, really, but it's certainly an interesting one.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lightreads

    Bounty hunter and occasional gene pirate takes a job that puts her squarely in the middle of the centuries-long internecine religious war. Interesting as hell, but also frustrating and unsatisfying. It would be too obvious to call this gritty, so I'll go the extra mile and explain that I kept asking questions of the world building like okay, seriously, you've been massacring your populations for a hundred years at the front, and yet both societies are still built around sending bodies out to figh Bounty hunter and occasional gene pirate takes a job that puts her squarely in the middle of the centuries-long internecine religious war. Interesting as hell, but also frustrating and unsatisfying. It would be too obvious to call this gritty, so I'll go the extra mile and explain that I kept asking questions of the world building like okay, seriously, you've been massacring your populations for a hundred years at the front, and yet both societies are still built around sending bodies out to fight? Bodies from where? And then Hurley told me where the new population growth comes from in a nearly casual aside, and I went . . . oh, swallowed hard, and moved on. This is a bloody, awful world, vividly drawn, and pretty close to fascinating. Unfortunately, the character work was done with a much heavier hand, and I found myself impatient with a lot of it. Also with the gender politics – this is one of those worlds where women are far more likely to survive than men, so you have most of the problems of the patriarchy but in reverse, plus a few extra. That aspect, like much of the work regarding the religious conflict itself, felt like pieces of machinery put carefully together and then not connected up to anything else. I don't know, I wanted more out of it than I got. Basically, it's a debut, and it interested and annoyed me in shifting proportions. I felt much more cheerful about it when I realized that I don't really want to read the next two books in this trilogy. But I really do want to read Hurley's sixth or seventh book, somewhere around there, because she's got something here and I really want to know what it's going to grow up to be.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    re-read. upping to five stars. i stand by the rest of my original review. highly original gritty fantasy. -------- "Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert. Drunk but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoky cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jaks and lost it two rounds later when Jaks hit the floor like an antique harem girl." What an opening! In God's War, Ms. Hurley cre re-read. upping to five stars. i stand by the rest of my original review. highly original gritty fantasy. -------- "Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert. Drunk but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoky cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jaks and lost it two rounds later when Jaks hit the floor like an antique harem girl." What an opening! In God's War, Ms. Hurley creates a fully realized alien world, culture and characters unlike any I have ever read. Her story of Nyx, a remorseless female bounty hunter, is complex but believable, driven forward at a relentless pace. Not a word wasted. Action is infused into almost every page. The religious elements of the story present a unique allegory to the ethnic and factional fighting that so dominates conflict in our world today. The magic elements are completely unique. Where did she come up with the concept? Loved the book and can't wait to read the rest of the series. I can think of only two authors with similar style and creativity: Jon Courtney Grimwood and Peter Watts. Mr. Grimwood's excellent Arabesk series (Pashazade, Effendi and Felaheen) has a similar Middle Eastern noir feel and pacing. Mr. Watts Starfish, Maelstrom and βehemoth series is an equally great read, with an equally strong female lead and unique concept. These authors may tide you over til Ms. Hurley's next effort is available.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    The Good: The setting is excellent - a planet torn by religious war, sometime after the collapse of a galactic civilisation. 'Bugpunk' biotechnology, post-Islamic feminism, holy assassins, boxing wizards - this book is full of sweet ideas done well. And what an awesome protagonist. The Bad: The plot drifts in places, far too much like real life. 'Friends' character the protagonist is most like: Nyxnissa is a product of her nightmarish environment. She is scarred, vulnerable and brutally hard. Like a The Good: The setting is excellent - a planet torn by religious war, sometime after the collapse of a galactic civilisation. 'Bugpunk' biotechnology, post-Islamic feminism, holy assassins, boxing wizards - this book is full of sweet ideas done well. And what an awesome protagonist. The Bad: The plot drifts in places, far too much like real life. 'Friends' character the protagonist is most like: Nyxnissa is a product of her nightmarish environment. She is scarred, vulnerable and brutally hard. Like a deadly, drunken Rachel Green minus the nose job.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eh?Eh!

    Night Shade Books (the publisher) has my number when it comes to whatever it is that catches my eye with cover pictures. And then NSB hits my other sensory checkpoints when I pick up a book - the books are a good size and heft for cradling in the hands or lap, the cover material is a non-glossy and yet satiny-smooth finish that doesn't preserve unsightly greasy fingerprints, and the pages and print are sturdy and don't smear. I was actually hooked by the 2nd in the series for this and another on Night Shade Books (the publisher) has my number when it comes to whatever it is that catches my eye with cover pictures. And then NSB hits my other sensory checkpoints when I pick up a book - the books are a good size and heft for cradling in the hands or lap, the cover material is a non-glossy and yet satiny-smooth finish that doesn't preserve unsightly greasy fingerprints, and the pages and print are sturdy and don't smear. I was actually hooked by the 2nd in the series for this and another one (Infidel and Yarn), and found the first for both series so that I could eventually read those 2nd ones. Well, that was a pointless paragraph. This is a mess of a world. Echoes of Dune and Mad Max. It's the far future and we're shown a planet that had been inhabited by various groups of followers of a never-named religion, although it's obvious which one from the brief (brief like skivvies, not brief like too short) tidbits and descriptions of the cultures. But rather than being united by their belief, they are suspicious of each other if not outright hostile. There's been biological evolution. One of the nations has twisted itself about such that women have become dominant. This book follows a woman scarred and actually still bleeding (figuratively) from a war that has been going on long enough that its cause has been forgotten (or rather, I'd forgotten it in the course of reading...don't remember, oops). We see her further downfall, skip ahead to years later where she's in a rut but with a loyal team, and then the destruction of the team. We learn that her brittleness covered pain, although only at the very end. There's no mass killing-off of main characters, a la GRRM, but there is breaking, inside and out. The writing has this fleshy oomph to it, enough that I was able to stick to it over the weeks I needed to read it in small, limited bites. I want to see what comes next.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hobart

    On a planet colonized by Muslims using insect-based technology in the far-flung future ravaged a multi-sect religious war, in the midst of which a scrappy band of pansexual assassins try to scrap out a living (selling the occasional organ to pay bills). Ho-hum. Nothing we all haven't read a thousand times before, right? Well, maybe not. Fantastic concept, well-written, heckuva world built by Hurley here. But here's the problem -- I couldn't force myself to care about any of these characters, part On a planet colonized by Muslims using insect-based technology in the far-flung future ravaged a multi-sect religious war, in the midst of which a scrappy band of pansexual assassins try to scrap out a living (selling the occasional organ to pay bills). Ho-hum. Nothing we all haven't read a thousand times before, right? Well, maybe not. Fantastic concept, well-written, heckuva world built by Hurley here. But here's the problem -- I couldn't force myself to care about any of these characters, particularly the protagonist Nyx. Unpleasant people, no real moral core, no reason to root for/against them, to care about their lives, their missions, their wars. I kept trying and trying and trying to find a reason to get invested in this beyond trying to figure out exactly how the insect-tech worked and utterly failed at every turn. You can have the coolest, most inventive setup imaginable, but if you don't fill it with people readers can give a rip about, it's just not worth the effort.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Acqua

    God's War is the first book in a sci-fantasy series about bounty hunters, magical bugs and an unending holy war, Bel Dame Apocrypha. For a book about bug-powered magic, it was surprisingly tame on the bug side of things. Yes, this is my first complaint because I had hoped for more, far more detail. If you've followed me for a while, you may know that The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley is one of my favorite books of all time because a) it's an all-lesbian space opera with a villain romance and God's War is the first book in a sci-fantasy series about bounty hunters, magical bugs and an unending holy war, Bel Dame Apocrypha. For a book about bug-powered magic, it was surprisingly tame on the bug side of things. Yes, this is my first complaint because I had hoped for more, far more detail. If you've followed me for a while, you may know that The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley is one of my favorite books of all time because a) it's an all-lesbian space opera with a villain romance and b) it has creepy biopunk horror descriptions and I love them. There was so much potential for biopunk horror descriptions here, but it didn't go in that direction most of the time and I'm sad. Not enough insect limbs. People replace organs regularly but no one has tried to grow antennae. Not good. Be weirder. (I also read this while I was recovering from surgery and this book starts with the main character being perfectly functional right after the removal of one of her body parts, her womb. I feel personally attacked.) This book is set in Nasheen, a violent matriarchy, and Chenja, a patriarchal, very religious society - and they are at war for... reasons. Vague reasons. There are also shapeshifters and various countries disagree on shapeshifter ethics. Everything is set in a very vaguely-middle-eastern world. The worldbuilding felt like someone was playing the throw-ideas-at-the-page-and-see-what-sticks game, because there were so many things going on at the same time and none of them made sense together. It's not that I didn't like them, it's that they didn't always feel developed nor thematically coherent. Now, let's talk about the religious themes. I loved that the main character of a book focused on religion and holy war was a bisexual atheist, and I loved how the setup of the societies allowed the author to play with gender roles. Ruthless women and religious, physically weak men aren't a common combination. Female characters aren't usually allowed to be the way Nyx is, morally gray and violent and aggressive and still not villains. This book also showed many different kinds of strength in different female characters. On the other hand, for a book about a holy war, very little is said about the actual religion. Some characters pray, some don't, some believe and some hate others for not believing, but what do they actually believe in? All I know is that the religion is vaguely inspired from Islam, it borrows some characteristics like clothing (hijabs are mentioned) but doesn't seem to be Islam. This... feels like lazy writing. I liked the characters - a diverse squad! a main character with dyslexia in SFF! - but I don't know if I want to read a whole trilogy from their point of view since I didn't care about the world.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    Wow, what a great book. This is a very layered story. On the the surface it is page-turning action and lots of violence but there are also the important relationship stories running underneath. Overlaying that loom questions of racial and cultural hegemony. It is a lot to pack into a relatively short book, but I think it was done very well. There are two more books in this series, and I definitely plan to read them. Although this book stands well on its own, there are lots of questions left unans Wow, what a great book. This is a very layered story. On the the surface it is page-turning action and lots of violence but there are also the important relationship stories running underneath. Overlaying that loom questions of racial and cultural hegemony. It is a lot to pack into a relatively short book, but I think it was done very well. There are two more books in this series, and I definitely plan to read them. Although this book stands well on its own, there are lots of questions left unanswered.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    This book was the first one I picked up as part of the 2015 Booktubeathon and I have to say it's well worth reading. This is a debut book by Kameron Hurley and whilst I haven't ever read anything by Hurley before now I had heard a lot about the originality and uniqueness of her ideas and concepts. Having now read her debut (which is the first in a series and one that I want to continue with) I can certainly say that Hurley does have a great way of coming up with original ideas that I had never s This book was the first one I picked up as part of the 2015 Booktubeathon and I have to say it's well worth reading. This is a debut book by Kameron Hurley and whilst I haven't ever read anything by Hurley before now I had heard a lot about the originality and uniqueness of her ideas and concepts. Having now read her debut (which is the first in a series and one that I want to continue with) I can certainly say that Hurley does have a great way of coming up with original ideas that I had never seen done before. This book focuses on a character called Nyx (what a cool name, may I just say) who is a Bel Dame and her team of Mercenaries. A Bel Dame is basically an elite assassin in this world, but this world is anything but normal. On the world of the Bel Dames there's a war raging between two nations. It's a war which is called the God's War and thus religion (and particularly Islamic beliefs) seem to take centre stage and be very prominent worries and concerns for may of our characters. We follow Nyx as she and her team are forced to find a missing individual, but along the way we find out a lot about their pasts, their secrets, their beliefs and their (absurd) world. It's an adventure, a battle and a never ending war. It's certainly exciting! The elements I found most interesting in this book were the world-building elements. Hurley has managed to create an alien world which runs off of Bug-powered technology and features magicians, assassins, gender-divisions and interesting characters. All of these elements are pretty balanced when you do get into the story (after about the first 50pgs) but it's certainly a bit of an experience to get used to it. I found myself believing in the world more the further through I went because Hurley, although very imaginative with the world-building, has it all worked out so well it feels convincing. I also liked that we had some focus on boxing (something Hurley is apparently interested in and has a past with) and magicians (something I love in fantasy). It's never truly clear quite whether there is 'magic' in the conventional sense within this story or whether it's more genetic engineering so this is certainly a blurring the lines of Sci-fi and Fantasy. I highly enjoyed the Bug-magic-craziness throughout though! On the whole I would say that this is probably not a book everyone will like because it takes a while to get to grips with it all and feel fully immersed but it is a fast-paced and highly original read. I would recommend it if what I've described appeals to you, and I gave this a solid 4* rating. I will certainly be looking out for the next few books in the series some time soon :)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    5 stars. I devoured this book. I loved every word of it. Nyx is simply one bad ass woman that I want to read more about. I guess the biggest compliment I can give this book is that it reminded me of a Catherine Kiernan novel, one of my very favorite authors... This is an Urban Fantasy that is filled with tons of bugs, amazing magic, more bugs, and did I mention the bugs. What a fresh and cool world and concept. This is an action packed and no holds thriller that will appeal to fans of the dark fant 5 stars. I devoured this book. I loved every word of it. Nyx is simply one bad ass woman that I want to read more about. I guess the biggest compliment I can give this book is that it reminded me of a Catherine Kiernan novel, one of my very favorite authors... This is an Urban Fantasy that is filled with tons of bugs, amazing magic, more bugs, and did I mention the bugs. What a fresh and cool world and concept. This is an action packed and no holds thriller that will appeal to fans of the dark fantasy genre. This is a book not to be missed and I cannot wait to read more.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bastard

    http://bastardbooks.blogspot.com/2012... God's War by Kameron Hurley was a top read of mine last year, and my favorite novel from a debut author with a tough competition. Been meaning to write something about it for some time now, but was struggling with what I wanted to say given that it's been a year since I read it. Details are currently a bit fuzzy. Just found out that the novel has been nominated for a Nebula for Best Novel in 2011, so seems like a good time as any to say a few things ab http://bastardbooks.blogspot.com/2012... God's War by Kameron Hurley was a top read of mine last year, and my favorite novel from a debut author with a tough competition. Been meaning to write something about it for some time now, but was struggling with what I wanted to say given that it's been a year since I read it. Details are currently a bit fuzzy. Just found out that the novel has been nominated for a Nebula for Best Novel in 2011, so seems like a good time as any to say a few things about it. It's the first book in the Bel Dame Apocrypha series, in what I understand may be a trilogy from which two novels are already released. Nyx is a former Bel Dame, a government sanctioned assassin among other duties, surviving amidst a war. She's now a bounty hunter, leading a group of specialized misfits, who has been tasked by the Queen to bring the head of an individual who holds the secrets to a weapon that will change the balance of the war. In a violent and cruel world, filled with bug magic and technology, Nyx has an uphill battle in her hands while former allies and current enemies try to kill her in a game which Nyx is not aware she's a pawn in. Months before it was released, I was sold in pre-ordering a copy with the cool cover and a short description that included something about cutting heads. Later on I read Mad Hatter's review, in which he labels the books as a bugpunk and I knew I had to read it as soon as I got my hands on it. Needless to say that I wasn't disappointed. God's War is not an easy book to read. Though there's some complexity to the plot, it seems evident to me that the author doesn't have much interest in spoon feeding the reader. The experience through the novel was one of playing catch-up. I personally liked this aspect of it, but I can see some readers get frustrated or have trouble getting into the rhythm of things. In addition to that, the book has plenty of crazy violent and disturbing scenes. Awesome, right? I recall being asked a few months ago who was my favorite female character in fantasy, and the clear choice was Nyx. Well, a tie really with Kate Daniels, but in any case Nyx is just great. She's a walking contradiction and tough as they come. I really don't know what to make of her, she's allover the place. One thing you can count on though is that she'll be hard to kill and kick some ass in the process. But I still don't know what to make of her. Is she patriotic? A rebel? Loyal? Untrustworthy? Selfish? Compassionate? Dependable? Crazy? Well, we know she's a bit nuts, but other than that you can make arguments for and against any label you try to apply to her, which makes her a very interesting character to me. Nyx aside, the biggest strength of God's War is the interesting and unique world building. The society we focus on is Islam influenced, but with a reversal of gender roles in various ways. It's matriarchal and males are sent off to the front-lines of the war, where chances are they won't return. A cool dynamic which was handled quite well without centering on gender differences, but on circumstances which has led them to their current situation where the male population is decreasing at a rapid pace and females hold the power of the governing bodies. There are other countries in this world that have their own distinct circumstances, but our action was mainly focused on the civilization depicted above. I made mention of the the book being described as a bugpunk. Insect manipulation plays a big role in this world. They're used in their technological advances, for medical procedures, as weapons, transportation, among other uses. Those who manipulate them are called magicians. There's just a good combination of unique and weird elements with an interesting society which breaks away from what may be deemed comfortable and usual. Topics wise there's a lot going on here, though I think the main ones have to do with power, sacrifice, and lack of communication, and the cost that comes with them. Loyalty is a constant dilemma particularly when it faces off against distrust and self-interest. Of course, religion plays a big part in here in both the shaping of civilization as well inner struggles from some characters. War and violence have their claws in just about every aspect of this society, it's not a pretty world and there's a constant struggle between what's necessary and excessive; regularly placed on a balance of individual vs. the benefit of the many. Plenty more to be found here, bravery vs. cowardice for one. I thought the collection of characters were great. Maybe a few were underused and not developed as much as I would've liked to see, but just a consequence of the novel really focusing on the POV of its two main characters, Nyx and the magician Rhys. But cool characters all around, and certainly multidimensional and they all serve their role in the events quite well. I can't recommend God's War enough. Plenty to like here particularly if you're patient and not frustrate yourself when the events and narrative get a bit hard to follow. It's fresh and it should satisfy those that constantly complain that they keep reading more of the same. Above all for me, this is simply a kickass, fast moving, action packed novel with tough people going at each other, scheming and cutting heads. A very strong debut for Kameron Hurley, and congratulations on her Nebula nomination. Already read the sequel, Infidel , which was another great installment to the series. Anticipating eagerly the next one. Give them a try.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I never expected to like this book. Never, ever. I stay far away from war-themed books. Even desert war in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Oh wait, post-apocalyptic? No, war negates it. Then this was nominated for a Nebula, and I only had three nominees for best novel left to read. Then I realized at some point last year, I downloaded it on my Nook app, probably free or some sale. So I didn't even need to find it; I owned it. No more excuses. I was impressed. It was something different! It takes thi I never expected to like this book. Never, ever. I stay far away from war-themed books. Even desert war in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Oh wait, post-apocalyptic? No, war negates it. Then this was nominated for a Nebula, and I only had three nominees for best novel left to read. Then I realized at some point last year, I downloaded it on my Nook app, probably free or some sale. So I didn't even need to find it; I owned it. No more excuses. I was impressed. It was something different! It takes this world where bugs take the place of things that electricity and batteries used to do, and then some. Lights. Security. Cameras. Medicine. Vaccination. Tracking. Explosive terrorist virus bugs. Wow, there are just bugs everywhere. They are described as crawling and dripping and being more pervasive (and possibly genetically/nuclearly altered) than you could ever fathom. In that sense this is not a book for the squeamish. I loved the kick-ass main character of Nyx. The same-sex relationships and gender role reversals were refreshing and worked really well, within a somewhat familiar context of different interpretations of civil and religious customs and law. Then there is magic. And... bug work. It is hard to explain, but handled well. I might even be tempted to read the next book. Do I think it will win the Nebula award? No! I think it is too specialized and different. But I'd love to see that happen to turn the award on its ear. A few samples: (setting) "He saw old contagion sensors sticking up from the desert, half buried, some of them with the red lights at their bulbous tips still blinking. There were fewer old cities in the Chenjan Khairian wasteland, where the first world had been created and abandoned." (these are not normal bugs!) "The desert stayed flat and white all day. Rhys saw more evidence of recent fighting as they drove - spent bursts and abandoned artillery, black-scarred rents in the desert, pools of dead bugs. He saw a heap of burning corpses in the distance. He knew there were corpses because the giant scavengers were circling, despite the smoke: couple of sand cats, black swarms that must have been palm-sized carrion beetles, and some of the rarer flying scavenger beetles with hooked jaws, the kind that grew to over a meter long and had been known to devour children in their beds." *shudder* (kickass) "'You didn't make me,' Nyx gasped. 'I made myself.'"

  23. 4 out of 5

    Silvana

    Very appealing read for those who are tired reading SFF with male leads or much worse, so-called badass female leads who really aren't. The females are (mostly on) the top of the food chain here and I love it. So many gender roles being deconstructed and flipped around. And the bugs, oh the bugs. If this is biopunk, consider me a fan. Great fully-fleshed out characters checked, intriguing and unique worldbuilding checked, badass assassins checked (Middle East in Space!), excellent action scenes Very appealing read for those who are tired reading SFF with male leads or much worse, so-called badass female leads who really aren't. The females are (mostly on) the top of the food chain here and I love it. So many gender roles being deconstructed and flipped around. And the bugs, oh the bugs. If this is biopunk, consider me a fan. Great fully-fleshed out characters checked, intriguing and unique worldbuilding checked, badass assassins checked (Middle East in Space!), excellent action scenes checked. The last 10% of this book is just a sheer thrill ride I need to remind myself to breathe.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    3.5 stars. I feel that the book is a bit rough around the edges and I'm not in love with the heavy-handed portrayal of a recognisable modern religion, but I liked it enough to continue with the series. Characters are strong, bug tech is fascinating, but there are so many disparate elements to this book. I'm interested to see how the further ones progress as Hurley writes more. 3.5 stars. I feel that the book is a bit rough around the edges and I'm not in love with the heavy-handed portrayal of a recognisable modern religion, but I liked it enough to continue with the series. Characters are strong, bug tech is fascinating, but there are so many disparate elements to this book. I'm interested to see how the further ones progress as Hurley writes more.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ranting Dragon

    http://www.rantingdragon.com/gods-war... Kameron Hurley’s stellar debut novel follows the bloody life of Nyxnissa, commonly called Nyx, a bel dame (government-funded bounty hunter) trying to survive in a world consumed by a holy war that’s been raging for centuries. When she’s relieved of her duties for doing black work of her own to earn extra cash for herself, she has to adapt and find a new way of living. To survive, Nyx has created a team of independent bounty-hunters that are willing to take http://www.rantingdragon.com/gods-war... Kameron Hurley’s stellar debut novel follows the bloody life of Nyxnissa, commonly called Nyx, a bel dame (government-funded bounty hunter) trying to survive in a world consumed by a holy war that’s been raging for centuries. When she’s relieved of her duties for doing black work of her own to earn extra cash for herself, she has to adapt and find a new way of living. To survive, Nyx has created a team of independent bounty-hunters that are willing to take any bounty that allows them to survive another day. Suddenly, she’s summoned into the Queen’s presence to accept a note that could retire her team from the business altogether. Charged with hunting down a missing alien who may be the key to solving the war in her country’s favor, she risks her life, as well as the lives of her team, to capture the alien. In the process Nyx and her team are entangled in a spiral of chaos and political intrigue fueled by hatred and distrust. Strong Characters James – God’s War accomplished what very few fantasy novels are able to do—create believable and in-depth characters. Each character got his or her own story, and in each of those stories the reader is brought closer to what makes that character his or her own person. Truly, this is something that astounded me more than anything else in this novel, and it’s something that deserves a great amount of applause. In the end, there were characters that I felt closer to than others, but they all had their strengths and weaknesses, and that’s what made them such a pleasure to read. Caitrin – The characters were definitely one of the main strengths of the novel. Nyxnissa, our heroine, is not a character that is immediately likable or relatable. Though you may finish the novel disliking her, Nyx is a real character. She is complex; she isn’t afraid to be anything but herself, she does what she wants when she wants, and she is willing to do whatever is necessary to accomplish her goals. Her character arc over the course of the novel is subtle but the changes in her character are always a result of her own will, never of circumstance or other people. Nyxnissa wasn’t my favorite character but she was the most well-fleshed out character and the perfect heroine for the story. Masterful Cultural Parallels James – I was amazed with how well Kameron Hurley incorporated cultural parallels with our own world without turning the novel into her own political statement. The problems facing the planet of Umayma are similar to our own. Homosexuality is grudgingly accepted but still culturally despised, similar to how it’s dealt with in many parts of our world. As well, Hurley’s ability to transform the war into a character of its own is phenomenal. You can feel the war’s oppressive hands clamping down on everyone in this novel, and shivers went down my spine as I realized the effects that war can have on people. Caitrin – The political connotations weren’t as obvious for me as the religious parallels were. The history of the people who landed on Umayma has been lost in the sands of time as the different nations that populate the world were created thousands of years before the novel begins. In my mind, though, I could easily see this as a far-flung future where different followers of God escaped Earth and settled the world. The nations of Chenja and Nasheen had an Islamic feel, while Ras Tiegans and the aliens seemed to follow an evolution of Christianity. I’d love to learn more about the beliefs of Mhoria and Tirhan. Religion is hugely important to all aspects of the novel as it pervades and influences everything. I loved creating theories as I read and learned more about the cultures of the countries of Umayma. Amazing World-Building James – The world that God’s War is set in is one vastly different from our own, yet still relatable on quite a few levels. There’s a definite Islamic feel to the world, the two sects being divided into two countries—Nasheen and Chenja—and surrounding those two cultures are previously established civilizations that have been forced to deal with the intrusion of these new people on their homeland. I felt like every single culture was fleshed out beautifully, and because of that, the world was plausible and could be sustained for generations. Caitrin – Hurley definitely gives the impression that she knows every minute detail of Umayma and it gives the whole universe of the novel a rich and deep feel. She doesn’t pull you out of the story by explaining things that the character would already know. This is a strength but it is also a weakness. You are thrown immediately into the world without a lifeline. I found myself scrambling to understand things like: What exactly is a burnous? Was a bakkie a bug, a vehicle or some weird mixture of both? Were the sisters chasing Nyx actually related to her? Maybe a dictionary in the back would have helped me. Once you get into the swing of things though, you are fully immersed in the story and world of Umayma and it’s a fantastic read. Not a Page Turner James – This book was not a page-turner, and that was unfortunate. The world was written beautifully, and the story was definitely interesting, but I felt like there just wasn’t enough suspense in this novel. There was no reason why I couldn’t just stop at the end of a chapter to set it down for later. Caitrin – I agree that while the book is very well written, until the last third of the book, I could easily put it down and pick it up later. The ending for me, though, was stellar. The action and stakes ramped up and I spent three hours finishing the book because I couldn’t put it down. I never felt cheated by how things turned out. Events didn’t unfold like I thought they would and I was surprised by how emotional I became when a character died. I had to put the book down for a few seconds to fully absorb it. Nyx is never spared a bad experience because she is the heroine, and her story and the overall plot had a complete end. The story could have very well ended there, with the lives of the characters continuing on without the reader ever learning more. I was satisfied by the ending but I wanted more; I wanted to see what else happened in the lives of the characters. I was very happy to learn that two more novels are going to be published. Some of the threads of the story that weren’t wrapped up into a neat bow will get resolution! I can’t wait until December! Why should you read this book? While this isn’t your standard fantasy novel, if you don’t mind a sci-fi twist to your reading, then there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t pick up this book. If you’re looking for an interesting, fresh story that marries fantasy and science-fiction in an original way, then this is the book for you. This beautifully crafted novel is truly a work of art—bloody, brutal, bug-filled art.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Oleksandr Zholud

    This is a future fantasy / bugpunk (author’s definition) novel was a Nebula and Locus Award nominee, which I read as a part of Monthly reads in Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels. Actually, this book was nominated to quite a few awards (the largest number of nominations I’ve seen), but won only British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer (2012) and The Kitschies for Golden Tentacle (Debut) (2011). The story starts with a bang: Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the d This is a future fantasy / bugpunk (author’s definition) novel was a Nebula and Locus Award nominee, which I read as a part of Monthly reads in Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels. Actually, this book was nominated to quite a few awards (the largest number of nominations I’ve seen), but won only British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer (2012) and The Kitschies for Golden Tentacle (Debut) (2011). The story starts with a bang: Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert. Drunk, but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoky cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jaks, and lost it two rounds later when Jaks hit the floor like an antique harem girl. Nyx lost every coin, a wad of opium, and the wine she’d gotten from the butchers as a bonus for her womb. But she did get Jaks into bed, and—loser or not—in the desert after dark, that was something. This is a story about Nyx, a bel dame (from French ‘beautiful lady’, supposedly from "The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy", early 19th century ‘femme fatale’), a government-funded female assassin, whose main job is to find and destroy deserters from the front. She is a grim noir character, living in the grim world, primary based on the Middle East. This is a story about Rhys, a deserter and magician, a pious man, who has to live among sinners and infidels. The planet Umayma (Egyptian female name meaning Little mother), is a harsh world. Illuminated by two suns, it is a desert world. Wrecked by nature and humans, it is a calamity: people, who have to work outside are regularly cleaned from cancers, and organ transplantation is ubiquitous (if you have money of course). In addition, there are a lot of bugs, who are one of the basis of technology – vehicles, cameras, freezers are working on bugs. There are people two control bugs (psionics/pheromone?) called magicians. There are also Shifters – people who can turn into other animals. The planet is harsh, but instead of working together to improve living conditions, people are at war. Two main states in the book are Nasheen and Chenja, and for the last century they are in a religious war. The war had a dramatic effect: almost all men are sent to the war and are decommissioned after the age of 40 (but only few survive to this age). Therefore, women run the economy and society. In Nasheen (Urdu "Parda Nasheen" means ‘lady in veil’) it created matriarchy, headed by a queen, with lesbian relations as a norm. In Chenja male mullahs are still in power and they see Nasheenians as heretics. I have a mixed feelings about the book. On the one side – a lot of great ideas, unusual setting, interesting characters, world building is great. On the other – it is ‘image over substance’ approach, where the writer drops more and more flashy images instead of giving more information of the previous ones. For example, vehicles, called bakkie run on ‘bug juice’ and a specialized bug colonies. Cool, but what these bugs actually do? Or bel dames (see above) are worth full platoons of solders but aren’t widely used in the war – it is like having heavy artillery, which is used by police but not army. Another objection, is too much grimness for grimness sake. If you like unusual fantasy / soft SF and not put off by blood and intestines flying around – try it, for it is quite an experience.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Terence

    Any world where you want a healthy population of roaches in your kitchen and bathroom is potentially interesting in the hands of a good writer. Fortunately, Kameron Hurley is pretty good, and Umayma is one of the more interesting future histories to appear in the last few years – insect-based technology, an Islam-influenced culture, a centuries-old religious war, an organization of murderous female assassins, boxing, magicians and shapeshifters. Such a world, however, would be a sterile read no m Any world where you want a healthy population of roaches in your kitchen and bathroom is potentially interesting in the hands of a good writer. Fortunately, Kameron Hurley is pretty good, and Umayma is one of the more interesting future histories to appear in the last few years – insect-based technology, an Islam-influenced culture, a centuries-old religious war, an organization of murderous female assassins, boxing, magicians and shapeshifters. Such a world, however, would be a sterile read no matter how inventive the details if there weren’t any interesting characters populating it, and here again Hurley comes through. Both of the protagonists, Nyx, erstwhile bel dame (see “murderous female assassins” above), and Rhys, fugitive Chenjan magician (though not a very good one), are believably complex characters motivated by misplaced senses of inadequacy and a need for atonement that translates into making them an extraordinarily effective team. (view spoiler)[Nyx can’t forgive herself for failing to save her brothers and for a mistake that killed her squad during her time at the front; Rhys can’t forgive himself for fleeing from service at the front. (hide spoiler)] Hurley offers enough detail to make Umayma seem real without overwhelming you with boring exposition. For example, Umayman xenophobia is clearly expressed by the fact that the non-Umayman humans are always referred to as “the aliens.” Or there’s the factoid that most visitors to the system were attacked and destroyed (which very quickly isolated the planet from the rest of the galaxy). I was also intrigued by Hurley’s almost coy allusions to the permutations of Islam that have shaped the dominant nations of the planet (Nasheen – a female-dominated polity – and Chenja – still ruled by male mullahs). Rhys carries a copy of the Kitab, not a Quran. “Kitab” is Arabic for “book”; “Bible” derives from the Latin for “book.” So one wonders what the contents of Rhys’s scripture is. And there are allusions to a more Christianity-oriented religious war being fought amongst “the aliens,” who play a prominent part in the plot. I would strongly recommend this book. The violence can be over the top but I think that’s another one of its strengths in that it depicts the deteriorization of civil society in the face of endemic war (a depiction further elaborated on in the sequel, Infidel, where the “diplomatic” overtures of the bel dames are contrasted with the cultured responses of the Tirhani). I would say that I’m looking forward to the next book in the series but as I’ve already read it, that would be untrue. However, I am looking forward to the third book, Rapture, coming in November. And I would be remiss if I didn’t also recommend Ceridwen’s review, which does a far better job than I of conveying the uniqueness of this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More)

    Dark, disturbing, brutal, fascinating. This was a fantastic book, in my opinion. Check Bitten by Books for a full review. http://www.bittenbybooks.com. Dark, disturbing, brutal, fascinating. This was a fantastic book, in my opinion. Check Bitten by Books for a full review. http://www.bittenbybooks.com.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stefan

    3.5 stars Some reviews are harder to write than others. Take God’s War, the first novel by Kameron Hurley, an author whose blog I’ve been reading with interest. The book had a long journey getting published (which you can read about on said blog) and has now, finally, reached the shelves thanks to the awesome folks at Night Shade Books. I was excited to get my hands on this book, because it’s in a sub-genre (or maybe more accurately, the cross-section of a few sub-genres) I love, has a number o 3.5 stars Some reviews are harder to write than others. Take God’s War, the first novel by Kameron Hurley, an author whose blog I’ve been reading with interest. The book had a long journey getting published (which you can read about on said blog) and has now, finally, reached the shelves thanks to the awesome folks at Night Shade Books. I was excited to get my hands on this book, because it’s in a sub-genre (or maybe more accurately, the cross-section of a few sub-genres) I love, has a number of features I usually appreciate in books, and seems completely and in every way like a book that I should love unconditionally... but despite enjoying and admiring much of it, God’s War didn’t completely deliver on my expectations. Living on the planet Umayma isn’t easy. The world is extremely inhospitable, and even relatively short exposure to outside conditions quickly leading to cancers and various other unpleasant consequences. In addition, war has been raging for years, mainly between the countries of Nasheen and Chenja over religious differences. Chemical and biological weapons are used as a matter of course. It just really isn’t a fun place to live, folks. In Nasheen, women are effectively in charge because virtually every semi-adult male has been shipped off to the war front. One of the most powerful groups in this country is the government-funded assassins known as “bel dames,” which on the surface may sound like French for “beautiful ladies” but actually has other other meaningful connotations, if you care to dig a little deeper. One of these bel dames is the novel’s protagonist Nyxnissa (or “Nyx” for short), but right from the start it is clear that Nyx isn’t exactly playing by the bel dames’ rules. Before long, Nyx is an independent mercenary who gets involved in a plot that will affect the future of the entire planet... and who will have some of her former colleagues out for her blood. Starting this review with a description of the planet rather than the characters seems natural, because world-building is one of the real strengths of God’s War. Kameron Hurley does an amazing job creating a very realistic dystopian setting. In addition, her prose is consistently sharp and descriptive, so even when you’re not 100% sure what’s going on, it’s always a pleasure to read. Take, for example, the novel’s first paragraphs: Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert. Drunk, but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoking cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jaks, and lost it two rounds later when Jaks hit the floor like an antique harem girl. Nyx lost every coin, a wad of opium, and the wine she’d gotten from the butchers as a bonus for her womb. But she did get Jaks into bed, and — loser or not — in the desert after dark, that was something. This type of dark, atmospheric, cutting prose can be found throughout God’s War. What’s even more impressive: as you read on, you’ll find that there’s actually a ton of information hidden in those first few sentences. One of the most intriguing world-building elements is the novel’s magic system — if that’s what it is, because even though the practitioners (who are able to control the bugs that are used for fuel, food and other things) are referred to as “magicians,” their power could just as well be one of those “sufficiently advanced technologies” that’s indistinguishable from magic, or (maybe more likely) a genetic mutation of some sort, if a fleeting reference to magicians using pheromones to control the bugs is an indicator. A second type of maybe-magic-maybe-not is used by the “shifters,” humans that are able to change into animals. Finally, there also appears to be a network of gates connecting the magicians’ “gyms” in various cities. How it all works is never explained in detail, but all of it is extremely exotic and fascinating — and that’s not even mentioning the mysterious “bakkie” vehicles (fueled by, of course, bugs) and the fact that both organs and blood seem to be a tradable commodity on Umayma. Amazingly, there are enough unique and intriguing world-building ideas in God’s War to fill more than one novel. However, for such an innovative concept, there’s very little exposition to be found in God’s War. Almost nothing is spelled out for the reader, so there’s a serious learning curve while you try to find your bearings. I ended up going back and re-reading the first 4 chapters (which comprise “Part 1” of the novel and are really a very long prologue setting up the main intrigue in Part 2), just to make sure I hadn’t missed some key point that would connect the dots before moving on to the rest of the novel. Of course, lots of science fiction and fantasy introduces unfamiliar elements. Anyone who reads enough speculative fiction eventually develops what Jo Walton calls an SFF reading skillset and knows to keep reading, because usually things will become more clear as the story develops, but in this case I somehow found myself more disoriented than normally would be the case. Easing a reader into a brand new fictional universe is an art; as much as I admire God’s War, it’s definitely not as accessible as it could have been. Regardless, I’d rather read a choppy book filled with strikingly original ideas than a smooth book without any innovation. When I said Umayma isn’t a fun place to live, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg because this novel is dark, dark, dark. Yes, the planet is a violent, poisoned, war-ravaged place, but that’s not all: the novel features an amazing amount of violence, some explicit torture scenes, lots of drug use, and generally a stunning amount of sheer human misery. Just the descriptions of the world’s effects on people are enough to make your skin crawl: He had stayed as far from the contagion clouds as possible, but when he stumbled through Chenja and into the nearest Nasheenian border town, he was hacking up his lungs in bloody clumps and his skin burned and bubbled like tar. Even as someone who loves dystopian fiction, this book is such a relentless assault of darkness and unpleasantness that it eventually started to get to me. Then again, if “any reaction is better than no reaction” is true, God’s War is successful at least in that its gritty, grisly environment did affect me strongly. The novel’s characters are introduced in much the same way as its fictional universe: without much exposition. They’re tight-lipped and hard to figure (not to mention mostly unlikeable), so it takes a while for them to grow on you. The two main characters, Nyx and Rhys (a Chenjan with some magic skills who ends up in Nyx’s crew) eventually evolve into real people: Nyx, the brash and independent main focus of the story should please any reader who enjoys a kick-ass female protagonist, and Rhys, who is more soft-spoken and gentle, almost seems out of place in this book (it would be great to learn more about his life in Chenja before the start of God’s War in future novels). Unfortunately, most of the side-characters (including the members of Nyx’s mercenary crew, her main rival Taite, and especially the other bel dames) remain relatively two-dimensional. Combine this with the constant, grinding darkness, and by the end of the novel I was so numb that the story's explosive climax just didn't hit me as hard as it should have. So, there you have it: an aggressively dark, highly original SF-fantasy novel with tight, cutting prose and some of the most inventive world-building I’ve seen in a while (trust me, there’s much, much more going on than I’ve described in this review). Some aspects of this debut novel are simply great, others don’t work, but in the end, if you like your SFF dark and edgy, you simply have to give God’s War a try. Kameron Hurley is a promising new author with a distinctive voice and a terrific (not to say terrifying) imagination. There’s not a shred of doubt in my mind that, as she continues to write and evolve, we’ll be treated to some amazing novels by her in the future. Even if this first novel didn’t click 100% for me, I’ll be first in line to read whatever she produces next. This review was also published at www.fantasyliterature.com on 1/12/2011.)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    A good, but flawed first novel, God’s War has enough innovative and imaginative touches throughout it to make the author someone I’ll read more of. Gritty and noirish, the book takes place in the far future on the harsh, colonized world of Umayma. The world is largely a desert planet and the two main countries, Chenja and Nasheen, have been embroiled in a Holy War for several centuries. The main character of the novel, Nyx, is violent, hard drinking, and not above being on the wrong side of the A good, but flawed first novel, God’s War has enough innovative and imaginative touches throughout it to make the author someone I’ll read more of. Gritty and noirish, the book takes place in the far future on the harsh, colonized world of Umayma. The world is largely a desert planet and the two main countries, Chenja and Nasheen, have been embroiled in a Holy War for several centuries. The main character of the novel, Nyx, is violent, hard drinking, and not above being on the wrong side of the law. As an ex-soldier and an ex-government assassin turned bounty hunter, Nyx has the checkered past and moral ambiguity of the classic anti-hero. Nyx also has a well-developed sex drive and beds a number of willing women throughout the novel. Oh, and by the way, Nyx is female. In the novel, while females can volunteer to serve in the military, Nasheenian males are drafted and sent to the front once they become teenagers. They can come home when (and if) they live long enough to reach 40. Hurley extrapolates what effect perpetual war would have on a culture and has created a matriarchal society where males are in short supply on the home front. This, however, isn’t a feminist Utopia, the women are just as violent and the female dominated government and other institutions are just as corrupt as ones run by males. I’m sure the argument can be made against trying to emulate the worse qualities of men, but in the novel, Rosie the Riveter is a bad ass who’ll beat you to a bloody pulp if you look at her the wrong way. Some of the highlights are: The Setting – the world building here is impressive. Umayma is a contaminated and ravaged world after centuries of warfare and Hurley adds a touch of innovation by making Umayma a world colonized by Muslims. Part of the conflict that gave rise to the war comes from the culture clash of the more pious Chenjans and the more progressive culture of the Nasheenians, but Hurley doesn’t demonize either side for their stance. An important secondary character is Rhys, a Chenjan expatriate on Nyx’s team, a pious and devout Muslim who is drawn sympathetically by Hurley. The Atmosphere – the book is noirish with many dark and macabre touches throughout it. For example, the repatriation of casualties becomes just another tactical move: “he stared out at the neatly numbered bags of the Chenjan dead, the ones the Nasheenians had taken from the field and planted with viruses to be trucked back into Chenja. These bodies would be stacked up and mixed in with the rest of Chenjan bodies pulled out of the field that day and then delivered back to Chenja, carrying tailored viruses and nests of bugs primed to burst after they reached a populated area”. The world of Umayma is bleak and war torn, with the quiet shattered frequently with the sound of sirens announcing in-coming chemical and biological weapons and the countryside littered with the detritus of conflict: “The desert stayed flat and white all day. Rhys saw more evidence of recent fighting as they drove - spent bursts and abandoned artillery, black-scarred rents in the desert, pools of dead bugs. He saw a heap of burning corpses in the distance. He knew there were corpses because the giant scavengers were circling, despite the smoke: couple of sand cats, black swarms that must have been palm-sized carrion beetles, and some of the rarer flying scavenger beetles with hooked jaws, the kind that grew to over a meter long and had been known to devour children in their beds." The Tech – this is one of the book’s strengths. Hurley has envisioned a world based upon bioorganic technology. Tailored bugs are used for food, energy, communication, weapons, etc, and Hurley does an amazing job developing this concept and creating a realistic society that would rely on this technology. If bugs make you squeamish, then the “ick” factor will be high in more than a few scenes The Flaws: The plot – if a book were a car and the plot the instrument that powers it, then this book is a Lamborghini with a 4 cylinder, ’77 Pinto engine under the hood. The plot, or what little there is of one, doesn’t kick in until about ½ through the book and it’s fairly weak. There’s also enough plot holes to drive a truck through. For example, the Chenjans are described as being racially distinct from the Nasheenians with black skin instead of the lighter skin the Nasheenians have, yet Nyx and several of her Nasheenian adversaries are able to wander around Chenja at one point without anybody becoming alarmed. I kept waiting for the Chenja internal security forces to swoop in and arrest everybody, but it never happened. It’s comparable to a group of Americans wandering around Japan during WWII or Hanoi during the Vietnam war with nobody reacting to it. The weak plot is a shame since so much attention was given to other aspects of the story, but this is the first book in a trilogy, so maybe the following books can find a decent story to tell. Still, I’d recommend the book to anyone who has read and liked any of Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels. While the sex scenes aren’t as explicit as those in Morgan’s novels, the violence is. It was nominated for a couple of sci-fi awards and has enough good qualities to make it worth reading.

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