Rapture by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Do you like meat grinders?
I won't lie. This is a difficult book to read. It's not so much filled with blood, guts, and bugs, (although it has plenty,) but it's the omnipresent oppressive machine of this world that grinds everyone down into so much pulpy protein.
As a SF, Hurley's work is very, very imaginative and rich, never resting on old ideas to pump out new stories.
She steadfastly brings in some of the most promising and far-reaching and immediate settings, and they're so damn real that I swear I have to reset my filter... a bunch of locusts keep messing with my hair.
Most impressively, though, is the devotion Hurley has to tackling all the deepest and darkest niches of our everyday lives, including family vs duty, team vs self, religion vs reality, hard choices vs sanity, and most importantly, it's a never-ending discussion about what comes after love and loss. Of course, the same thing could be said about the whole world, here, but its the individual characters who suffer, and by god, everyone suffers.
The fleeting moments of happiness are few and in general the tone is always one of stoic acceptance, so we don't absolutely have to roll in all the excised organs, tongues replaced with a symbiotic bugs, or the fact that every gift comes with three or four fatal strings attached.
But they do.
God, these are very oppressive books.
Impressive, and gorgeous in their way, with amazingly deep character studies and worldbuilding, but these novels are definitely not easy. (The writing is fine. I'm only referring to the subject matter.)
I can respect this one along with the other two in the series, but I must confess, it's almost too much for me. Idea speculation is the trade of SF, but there's two sides to it. There's the question and there's the answer. Putting all these idea elements together into a novel and then offering up this world makes a wonderfully complex stew, but the only thing I take away is that life is hard and things are complex.
In other words, this is a reflection of real life.
Okay, so I don't live being beset by aliens in a war-ground with shapeshifters and magicians with everyone around me mired in the fallout of a holy war, but the similarities are everywhere, regardless.
It takes a grand imagination to pull that off.
But here's where I find issue with it: Perhaps I didn't want to be shown a world hopelessly tied up in its crazy with no real solution. Character studies don't need solutions, but more often than not, a world-building SF generally gives us some sort of drastic change in the setting. (Something more than a shapeshifter revolution or a resumption of civil war. All of that has been practically the norm. I keep thinking of a real resolution that's unusual for these people. Like prosperity. Like real peace. As it is, I just feel sad for them.) *sigh*
Still, it was a very impressive ride.
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