God's War by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I never expected to like this book. Never, ever.
I stay far away from war-themed books. Even desert war in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Oh wait, post-apocalyptic? No, war negates it.
Then this was nominated for a Nebula, and I only had three nominees for best novel left to read. Then I realized at some point last year, I downloaded it on my Nook app, probably free or some sale. So I didn't even need to find it; I owned it. No more excuses.
I was impressed. It was something different! It takes this world where bugs take the place of things that electricity and batteries used to do, and then some. Lights. Security. Cameras. Medicine. Vaccination. Tracking. Explosive terrorist virus bugs. Wow, there are just bugs everywhere. They are described as crawling and dripping and being more pervasive (and possibly genetically/nuclearly altered) than you could ever fathom. In that sense this is not a book for the squeamish.
I loved the kick-ass main character of Nyx. The same-sex relationships and gender role reversals were refreshing and worked really well, within a somewhat familiar context of different interpretations of civil and religious customs and law. Then there is magic. And... bug work. It is hard to explain, but handled well. I might even be tempted to read the next book.
Do I think it will win the Nebula award? No! I think it is too specialized and different. But I'd love to see that happen to turn the award on its ear.
A few samples:
"He saw old contagion sensors sticking up from the desert, half buried, some of them with the red lights at their bulbous tips still blinking. There were fewer old cities in the Chenjan Khairian wasteland, where the first world had been created and abandoned."
(these are not normal bugs!)
"The desert stayed flat and white all day. Rhys saw more evidence of recent fighting as they drove - spent bursts and abandoned artillery, black-scarred rents in the desert, pools of dead bugs. He saw a heap of burning corpses in the distance. He knew there were corpses because the giant scavengers were circling, despite the smoke: couple of sand cats, black swarms that must have been palm-sized carrion beetles, and some of the rarer flying scavenger beetles with hooked jaws, the kind that grew to over a meter long and had been known to devour children in their beds."
"'You didn't make me,' Nyx gasped. 'I made myself.'"