“And how many times have I prayed the angels would speed me away”

deathless divide

 

Deathless Divide is the much anticipated follow up to Justina Ireland’s 2018 YA novel Dread Nation.  In this alternate history of Civil War era America, the dead rise up during the Battle of Gettysburg and the North and South are forced into a hasty truce.  Our main characters, Jane McKeene and Katherine Devereaux are sent to combat schools to learn to be attendants which is sort of a combination of a lady’s maid and a bodyguard. The events of Deathless Divide pick up right where the previous book left off so, spoilers ahoy!
We find Katherine and Jane fleeing Summerland with a small band of escapees and an undead hoard hot on their heels. They are headed to the town of Nicodemus which is said to be safer and more tolerant than Summerland, though both women are rightfully skeptical.  Naturally, nothing goes as it should and the group suffers some serious setbacks, both emotional and physical. Difficult choices are made leading to a conclusion that is satisfying but could also lead to a series, if Ms. Ireland is so inclined.
I’m very picky about alternate histories as most of them tend to be ideations of the South winning the Civil War or the Nazis winning World War II.  What is clear in the Dread Nation duology is that although there are no clear winners between the Union and the Confederacy, it is black and brown folks that come out on the bottom.  This is sadly the most common theme in American history, real or imagined.

“Live fast. Die young. Bad girls do it well”

gideon the ninth

 

I’m at a loss as to how to describe this book. It’s part science fiction, part fantasy, part locked-room mystery and that really only scratches the surface. Gideon the Ninth has gotten a LOT of hype in the book community and it absolutely lives up to it in my opinion.  I’ve already preordered the sequel, Harrow the Ninth (number 2 of a trilogy) from my book store.
Gideon is an extremely reluctant servant of the Ninth House. At the beginning of the book we find her attempting to leave the planet with her broadsword and her supply of dirty magazines.  Her plan is quickly foiled by her nemesis; Harrow, Reverend Daughter and Necromancer of the Ninth House. Harrow makes a deal with Gideon; travel to the imperial planet of the First House and act as Harrow’s bodyguard in a competition and she can have her freedom. Gideon agrees and the two head off.  In the midst of this competition between each house’s best and brightest, people start dying in very nasty ways. Since there’s no way on or off the planet, it’s a safe assumption that one of the guests is responsible.
I had a lot of fun reading this book. It’s very high concept but never gets lost up its own ass as many high concept books are wont to do. Obviously Gideon and Harrow are the main characters but the other competitors are fully realized.  You genuinely regret seeing them get bumped off (some more than others).  Finally, despite its irreverence it never veers into “zaniness” which I have no patience for. Tamsyn Muir is a really exciting new voice in the sci fi/fantasy genre and I can’t wait to see where she goes next.

“We need no introduction, for mass annihilation”

leviathan wakes

 

This series of books already has a well loved television adaptation that, I believe is still in production. I gave it a try when the series premiered and I had trouble getting into it.  Still, people raved about the source material and it doesn’t take much to sell me on a SciFi series especially when you throw in the words “space opera” so I picked up the first two on sale.  The first installment absolutely lives up to the hype.  It’s an engaging combination of lovable characters, intergalactic political maneuvering and nail-biting space battles with some sinister alien life thrown in for good measure.

The story shifts perspective between Jim Holden, XO of the water hauler “Canterbury” and Detective Joe Miller, a semi washed up detective on the now inhabited asteroid of Ceres.  Both are fairly ordinary men who find themselves thrust into a situation that pits the major factions of the galaxy against one another and threatens to destroy the human race.  The factions in question being superpowers Earth and Mars and the underdog Belters (those that inhabit the asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter).  Holden, like all good space protagonists has a strong moral code and a scrappy, resourceful crew that become like a found family as the book progresses.  Miller has spent the bulk of his career dealing in shades of gray and is an obvious contrast to Holden.
It’s hard to know where the series will go next. Honestly the first one could have been a standalone book though it certainly leaves plenty of openings for future novels.  I’d like to see some different perspectives moving forward.  Specifically the character of Naomi Agata, one of Holden’s crew members. Of course who knows what new voices will show up in book two. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you soon.