Rapture, by Kameron Hurley

After
years in exile, Nyx has finally been offered everything she thought she ever
wanted.  The Bel Dames want her
back, and they want her to fix the mess that’s become of Nasheen in the last
bloody days of the war with Chenja, and the armistice that came after.  To do it, Nyx and her team will have to
travel to the ends of the earth, and she’ll have to give up everything she’s
built in her exile.  Again.

Going
into Rapture, one might expect more
of the same from Hurley; it’s a formula that works and keeps the reader
engaged.  But Hurley changes it up
in the final installment of the Bel Dame Aprocrypha, turning the tale of one
rogue Bel Dame into the story of an evolving world.  Readers will be pleasantly surprised to find that previously
minor characters take on a much larger role in this novel; and the personal
stakes of the plot are much higher.

Characterization
in this novel is more concrete than in previous installments, particularly as
it is built through dialog and personal interactions.  Nyx grows as a character, in ways that are realistic and in
keeping with everything the reader learns about her throughout the series.  Her hard-won self-knowledge is a great
allegory for the life of a planet that had been at war with its inhabitants
since they arrived, and provides a prescient mirror for what we are
experiencing right here on earth today.

Readers
who enjoyed the first two novels in this series will of course enjoy the
conclusion to the stories of a very compelling set of characters.  Hurley has proven herself not just a
strong writer, but one who is able to make the reader think; readers of Phillip
K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin, and Ann Leckie are encouraged to check out this
series, as well as Hurley’s other work. 
This novel and series is recommended for lovers of alternate or future
technology stories, like the work of Alistair Reynolds or Frank Herbert.

Infidel, by Kameron Hurley

For
centuries people have been seeking a way to end the brutal religious war
between Chenja and Nasheen.  Now it
looks like the one person who might be able to do it is the one who believes it
will never end.  Nyx thought she’d
settled into a life that was somewhat more predictable than it had been when
she was tracking down alien gene pirates. 
Business is, if not booming, at least steady, and she hasn’t been shot
at in a while.  But there’s always
the next assignment to shake things up.

It’s
Kameron Hurley’s second installment in her Bel Dame Apocrypha series, and this
time Nyx has even less to lose.  Or
so she had thought.  After God’s War, it seemed impossible that
anything could hit harder, but Infidel
finds ways to further plumb the depths of Nyx’s soul.  Where God’s War asked
questions about human nature and religion, Infidel
takes a deeper look into the psyche of Nyx herself, taking the reader on a trip
through Nyx’s own living hell, pushing her to the limits of even her
strength.  Hurley has written the
kind of anti-hero you can’t help loving, even if Nyx can’t love herself.

Hurley’s
writing is crisp, relying on pacing and dialogue to round out her characters
and carry the story forward. 
Hurley’s style allows the reader to get glimpses into each character’s thoughts,
which gives added impact to their actions, especially when the two don’t match
up.  Once again, complicated
relationships make this novel worth reading.

Those
looking for a truly conflicted protagonist will find it in this novel—and
series.  Hurley doesn’t do anything
just for effect; everything matters. 
Science fiction and fantasy lovers will find plenty of it in a world
where giant bugs are the norm and reconstructing a human skin or other
tissue—even reanimating the dead—are the norm for Umayma’s magicians.  The unwinnable war will prove compelling
for many a reader tired of the lofty ideals and cute tropes so rampant in
fantasy writing today.  Gritty and
gutsy are the words for this novel.

God’s War, by Kameron Hurley

God’s War is
Kameron Hurley’s debut novel, the first in a trilogy sometimes called the God’s
War Trilogy, and sometimes the Bel Dame Apocrypha.  It’s the story of Nyx, a Bel Dame, who is doing her best to
survive in the war-ravaged nation of Nasheen. God’s War takes its name from the war being fought between Nasheen
and Chenja—with weapons and technology thrown in from neighboring smaller
nations—about the nature of the religion and god both nations share.  Each nation believes it knows best, and
is fighting a war of God’s making against the other.

Nyx
is a killer, a war veteran, but she is also a sister and a friend.  She fights to save those close to her,
even at the cost of her own life, but she is also ruthless when it comes to
carrying out a note for a target. 
Although her story takes place in a fictional world, Nyx is a real
person with conflicting beliefs and actions.  She is stubborn and angry, and has a difficult time dealing
with people whom she can’t seduce or overpower.  For all her faults, however, hers is the only team willing
to follow her anywhere, to rescue her when she is captured, to die for her if
necessary.  Hurley has written an
intensely powerful narrative about loyalty and belief that has much to say in a
relatively short novel.

God’s War not only
examines the nature of religion and religious wars; it takes on gender identity
and gender inequality as well.  In
Chenja, men are in control, marrying as many as twenty or more women at a time,
holding all property, and expecting women to dress and act modestly at all
times.  In Nyx’s country of Nasheen,
however, women have gained status and power over men.  In both nations most men are sent to war, many die, but in
Nasheen the few who remain behind or have returned are at the mercy of the
assertive and often unpredictable women who run everything from the home to
business to the government.  For
many readers it may represent an uncomfortable reversal, but it’s important to remember
that the shift is not meant to be an answer to current gender inequality but to
ask real questions about the nature of gender inequality we see around us every
day.

Hurley
writes with brief but deliberate prose, excising sentiment and exposition in
favor of action and the opportunity for her characters’ thoughts and actions to
take center stage.  She is not a
lazy writer, however.  Hurley
doesn’t rely on comfortable traditions or science fiction settings, choosing
instead to build the world of Umayma with relatable Earth analogs in order to
set a scene and move on to the story she has to tell.  Her characters and the world they inhabit are vastly
different than many science fiction worlds, from their skin tones to their
technology. 

Readers
looking for a novel or series in which women are allowed to be just as violent
and assertive as they want to be will enjoy God’s
War
.  This is not to say
violent is the only tone in the novel, but that God’s War takes on violence in many forms.  However readers will find no sexual
violence, a positive divergence from a lot of science fiction or fantasy
labeled “dark” or “gritty.”  God’s War will appeal to readers who
enjoy action and suspense, as well as to readers looking for a novel that will
challenge them intellectually.  God’s War features large and threatening
fauna, including giant killer insects, and is a welcome departure from worlds
in which fauna is an afterthought or has been completely subsumed by human
behavior.

Kameron
Hurley also has a large online presence, with a regularly updated website and
blog, as well as a twitter feed, well worth checking out:

www.kameronhurley.com

twitter.com/kameronhurley