Queer Joan of Arc meets ‘Pacific Rim’
I was really excited to read this book. I love anything with mechs, and I have wanted to read something by Neon Yang, who used to write under JY Yang, so this looked like the perfect fit for me. It’s heavy sci-fi with a mix of fantasy and maybe military fantasy and I found myself quite drawn into this world Yang created and was happy to go along for the ride.
While this book had some great action moments, it was a slower read. I read Iron Widow, another mech book this year and I flew through it as it was mostly just entertainment. This book was pretty hardcore sci-fi and you had to read things carefully so you could catch everything that was going on. It’s not one of those books that you have no idea what you are reading, I understood everything but I had to read carefully.
Another issue that I think slowed down the pace of reading for me was the third-person narrative form of storytelling from a character that is not the main character. Coming from someone that actually loves first person and close psychic distance to the main character, this type of faraway feeling from the main character would really irk me at times. Sometimes Yang could get you close enough so you would feel what Misery was feeling, other times I was too far away and I was only being told what Misery was experiencing instead.
The book was wonderfully queer. Misery she/they is the main character. I noticed that some people didn’t care for this but because of computer chip implants, everyone’s pronouns are always introduced when new characters are introduced to each other. I saw that some readers didn’t like reading all the pronouns but I thought it was interesting since I have never seen so many used in the same book. Sexuality is very fluid and it is not even spoken about with any issues. Misery sleeps with people with he/him pronouns but has her main relationship with someone who uses she/her. I’m being vague on purpose because I don’t want to say who it is because Misery’s relationship with this person, whom she has real feelings for, is one of the only real relationships that she has in the whole book so it is too important to give away.
In this book, people believe that Misery is the messiah they’ve been waiting for and that she will help the religious faithful in the mech war against the heretics. Misery doesn’t believe in any of it and while she has a few powers, she thinks she is going crazy so she doesn’t mind pretending in hope of escaping The Crown who doesn’t seem to be happy with her arrival anyway. This right here is where the book really shined. It was a great premise and when Misery was her snarky but badass self, were some of my absolute favorite parts. There were still parts that I really enjoyed later on, but I think besides the character of Misery’s partner, most of the secondary characters just needed a little more character-building. They were all close but just not quite there. And while the book was decent size already, the time jumps took away from precious character-building time that was needed with other characters. Adding some extra page length to a book like this would have been fine and welcomed for that issue.
TLDR: This was a pretty hardcore sci-fi book. I had some definite issues with it, but in the end, I’m a sucker for badass women, nb characters and mechs so this was still an easy 4 stars for me. This book is a slower read, it took me 3-4 times what I expected, but because I read carefully, I found I was able to understand almost everything. This is NOT one of those ‘WTH did I just read’ books, it’s just not an easy read. I don’t know if this is the end of Misery or not. With the ending Yang really left it either way but I would absolutely read a second book because I believe Misery has some unfinished business to attend to. 4 stars.
A copy was kindly given to me for an honest review.