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It took 60 pages (if I remember correctly) to get to the driving point of the plot. I wondered if the whole novel was just going to be Nyx stumbling from one “note” to the next endlessly and pointlessly as the war. But then the big one fell in her lap and projected her and her group further down the rabbit hole of bounty hunting = the plot.

This novel touched on many themes and ideas and world building that I found really interesting. The plot did not exactly go there, however.

But the world building really is something. Bug tech! Maybe I don’t read enough of this type of sf to know better (has this been done a lot? I don’t know). I liked it, though.

Hurley has populated her novel with not necessarily likeable characters: they tend toward pessimistic, stubborn to narrow-minded, they don’t learn any lessons or change by the end of the novel. But then again, not all people learn and change and not all novels and stories are about lessons, either. The characters’ ability to deal with emotions, especially attraction, romantic feelings, or love, is certainly limited and this is frustrating, but what is to be expected? the nations are stuck in an endless war that has mostly annihilated the planet. Emotional intelligence is not going to be taught at school (some of the characters didn’t or barely finished general education, limited as that was) and won’t on the top of people’s hierarchy of needs.
These are flawed characters. And yet I didn’t not like any of them. Hurley kept them all human and understandable, even if I did disagree with their actions and views. To be honest, I am not sure how much of my not disliking them had to do with my already lowered expectations. If it has more to do with her writing, then that’s an achievement.

I think I was interested in Nyx and Rhys because I wanted to see if they could care about each other, or anyone other than themselves. They were interesting as characters to begin with, flawed and gritty and driven by fears that one can understand. But they did not change or learn… perhaps Rhys did discover something about caring for someone he did not like, Nyx, but he would not act on it. I think that would have helped this story: set on a world that is being destroyed by a permanent war about religious beliefs, if in this context two people from opposing sides could learn to care for the other despite the fact that they disagree and don’t even like each other, then there is hope – not an answer and not a solution and nothing short of Sisyphean work to change their cultures, but hope nonetheless. But Nyx didn’t change much less learn or recognize her affection for Rhys, and Rhys did seem to recognize his affection for Nyx, but not more.

So I don’t think I will be reading further in this series. Because if things don’t change, then that’s just bad melodrama and bad action movie series and booooring. There needs to be change, hope, uncertainty… faith. And faith needs to be challenged. I don’t think Nyx was challenged. Main character not challenged = not good.

The plot got complicated and convoluted instead of complex and I did get lost with some of the factions and double-agent stuff. Also, a bit repetitive in the kidnap and torture the main character or one of her group, get sprung, run a step or two forward toward goal, get captured and tortured again, and etc.

I am not a mystery or thriller or action reader. Perhaps that is why I thought the novel was such a thrill ride and I forgave much – it was easy to suspend my disbelief and let slide the things I didn’t like (including the disbelief which did filter through my lowered threshold) and look for the aspects I found interesting: gender roles, bug tech, political reproductive interstellar intrigue, fight scenes. I don’t go to roller derby expecting to be educated and enlightened, I go for some adrenaline fun and (restricted, enacted) brutality. I don’t expect finesse or deep thoughts. If that were included somehow, though, that would be pretty awesome.

Implications of race, religion, and gender but these were not explored. Gender more than the others, I’d say… at least it was in the forefront more than the others. I say this because when pressed with what to say about how gender was explored all I can come up with is women can be as greedy, violent, and hopeless as men. But that’s not really news. Perhaps it is to some. Someone mentioned a similar feeling about the message in Cloud Atlas that we are all interconnected, that there is no distinction of race or gender, and that that is not news…. and I agree, in my circle that is not news, that is a given, but in the rest of the world… well, I sadly sadly do not think that this understanding has yet hit the op-ed for the world at large much less the headlines.

While typing in ‘tags’ I decided to include ‘feminism’ and ‘characters of color’ because I think some people will read Hurley’s novel as being a pro-such. I do not think a book mostly populated by women and non-white characters is alone a reason to call it a feminist work or that it champions diversity, but we simply do not see many novels of mostly women characters and mostly characters of color… whether or not the novel is an action based thriller or a more cerebral tale. But it does depict a world populated and run by women and people of color and it does not make a big deal about these things, which is a nice change.

It just occurred to me that the racism and religion-based discrimination and hate are therefore all the more complex because this world is populated by women and people of color. Racism and discrimination is usually a white to non-white issue because that’s the ‘dominant paradigm’, the ‘normative’ in North America (white, Protestant, heterosexual, cis male). I don’t know what to say about that, not in any coherent way that would translate well on this forum, and not in this already long post. And I didn’t even get into the sexuality issue.

Thanks for sticking around if you got this far.