Saturday, September 4, 2021

Book Review - A Memory Called Empire

I must apologize for being absent for so long. I was in a bit of a rocky place with my own writing, my personal life, and my full-time day job. I stopped in for the blog hop, but failed to actually do any hopping! I will be getting to that later this week. 

My other good excuse is I was engrossed in a book! Which is a GOOD thing. It was a good release, and helpful in a few ways.

I recently reread my favorite book, my "gateway" book, Dune. It had to be done. In my mind it was perfection and I found myself wanting to emulate it without actually knowing why. After reading it, I realized why using it as a model would never work. Modern readers would likely not appreciate some of the exposition and simplistic ideas Herbert uses. This type of writing is for cult followers. I recently read in a review that if you have not fallen in love with Dune before you are married, then you will not love it at all. I think that is an accurate statement. It lacks the amount of complexity that mature readers seek today.

This set me on the search for a modern variant. I made several lists and eventually was limited by the two, very short shelves of Science Fiction located in my local library. But I am forever grateful for the book that eventually made its way into my hands. 

Here is my review from Goodreads. 

A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan #1)A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I might give this 5, but I would have to read it again, which I may eventually do. I liked the "complex" grammar. Having to reread a sentence or paragraph does not bother me when it is packed with so much meaning. Martine does this effectively, I think.

I enjoyed the worldbuilding. I think Martine has created a fantastic universe and described it well. She includes clear references to the ancient cultures of Central and South America, which I enjoyed personally since I studied pre-colonial cultures in college.

I love the unique qualities of the two main cultures, the interesting way they receive names (number + noun), and the use of futuristic technology to preserve the most valuable people in the limited society of space station life.

I have searched for months for a modern Sci-Fi book to drift away in. This book met my needs completely. I wanted to get lost in new civilizations, explore human conflicts in the future, and travel across space. I needed a newer version of my favorites (Le Guin universe), and I think this succeeds. It has the layers of tension that modern audiences want more of, addresses the modern questions we have about how love looks without the restrictions we see in our own societies, and requires a certain level of knowledge about our own history to be truly understood.

I also love the use of poetry. I love how Martine uses it to build our understanding of the main culture and how she uses it to pull us in and make us feel like outsiders at the same time. It helped me connect with the main character, who was also an outsider. I see her desire to want to be included and understand why she could not be.

Most of the book is third-person limited, following the main character, with a few interludes that give a small piece of the unknown backstory. I think this was effective, but the single point of view was perhaps too limiting for my taste.

I think I lost a little of the understanding of the overarching threat in the book, which is likely more valuable to the sequels. It was tricky for me to fully understand the larger motivations of the societies. I think if I get the chance to reread it, I will better understand that part by giving less attention to understanding the character and her world.

As a writer working on a debut novel, this was a perfect model for creating a fresh work of science fiction that can still captivate modern readers and their own increasingly complex perspectives.

View all my reviews

1 comment:

  1. Hari OM
    I think you hit a good point... generally we have become more sophisticated in our escapist requirements, and also more existential. If these are not met, it can feel...empty. I would be afraid to reread Dune... YAM xx