Preface: I was given an ARC for this novel by the publisher.
Twitter Summary: Like China Mieville wrote A Man in the High Castle after seeing Pacific Rim.
First line: The death of the United States of America began with a series of signatures.
I saw the gorgeous cover of this book, and immediately wanted to read it. I assumed it was in the vein of Pacific Rim, Kaiju Rising, or Project Nemesis, and it would involve big ass robots fighting big ass monsters.
It doesn’t. There’s a couple of scenes with hot robot-on-robot action, but for the most part this book is far more interested in delving into questions like “What would it be like to be on of Orwell’s thought police?” and “What kind of weird tech would an Japanized America make?” with the emphasis on weird.
We’re not talking zany weird, either. This isn’t Welcome to Night Vale or Terry Pratchett. This is a crimelord who has his minions that were genetically modified. At one point you get a gun grafted onto a main character. This is cyberpunk/dystopian/Netrunner kind of weird.
The main characters aren’t very likable, but I really think that’s sort of the point. One’s a government censor, and the other is a member of the secret police. Their job is to oppress the populace and ensure that the Emperor’s rule is maintained. By making them the protagonists, it allows the author to examine the questions of “What’s the place of government?” and “How should the populace be controlled/directed?”
The book was well written, but I felt that the storyline was a little choppy with the transitions sort of jarring. It’s very possible that this was the intention of the author, but it’s not the sort of thing that I enjoy. The conclusion was satisfying and the book felt like it earned it.
Final Verdict: I enjoyed it. I’m interested to see what else this author puts out.
New Weird: Shield and Crocus by Mike Underwood, City of Stairs (The Divine Cities) (review forthcoming) by Robert Bennett, Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff Vandermeer
Alternate History: Anything by Turtledove. Especially the In the Balance series. Also the Weapons of Choice (The Axis of Time Trilogy, Book 1) series by John Birmingham.