This book is grim, well written, but grim and I didn’t enjoy reading it. I know plenty of other people will like it, because some people enjoy grim. I nearly abandoned it several times. Emily Tesh’s main character, Valkyr, starts off Some Desperate Glory as a joyless, intolerant fanatic who thinks she is better than almost everyone else. To be fair, she has been raised to be so, in what we come to realize is an extremist death cult.
Earth has been destroyed and a small group of humans cling to life on a barely livable rock. Some human live on habitable planets, but they are considered collaborators and traitors by Gaea Station. They live by the motto, “Earth’s children endure and while we live, the enemy shall fear us.” Kyr’s cohort is on the verge of receiving their assignments, the roles they will play for the rest of their adult lives. Kyr has trained relentlessly to be the best so that she will be assigned to a combat squad. The greatest glory would be to die fighting the enemy, the majo. The worst assignment would be the nursery, where Kyr would spend her time being pregnant to hit “population targets” and raising the babies she did not give birth to.
Gaea Station is a fascist military dictatorship, controlled by Aulus Jole, whom Kyr thinks of as an uncle, a mentor, and a hero. The core message that Kyr learns in many iterations, is that fascism is bad and worship of the military allows petty people to turn the populace at large into meat for the grinder. Gaea Station is gender essentialist, stripping Kyr and most of the people there of bodily autonomy. Though Kyr has turned herself into a highly skilled soldier, she is only valued for her child bearing abilities. The fascist obsession with genetics is fully on display here too.
In addition to being grim I’m not sure it entirely sends the message it wants to send. Part of the problem is making one man the lynchpin for everything bad. In truth there is never one man at the root of all evil. Complex issues are flattened until they are almost meaningless. If you are looking for a sapphic space opera, Some Desperate Glory, is technically that, but I found the Sapphic part of that description very underwhelming.
CW: a couple of genocides, murder on page and in past, violence, suicide on page, torture, queer phobia, transphobia, forced pregnancy, sexual assault, rape of minor discussed.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Tordotcom and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.