CBR15PASSPORT (Stamp #6: Books recommended by friends. Namely ALL of you.)
CBR15 BINGO: (Queer Lives square: queer author and queer characters.)
What did I just read? I’m not mad about it. I’m glad that I read it but I have so many thoughts. So many thoughts that I’m not sure I can articulate them properly. So many thoughts that are DEFINITELY spoilery. For the 2 or 3 of you that haven’t read these books yet…please do. Don’t however, read this review because I think it will be spoiler-y. Maybe? I’m not sure that this review will make enough sense to spoil anything. Because, again, I’m not entirely sure what I just read. My incoherent ramblings might turn you off from reading these books that you should definitely read. Go away and read them first. Save yourselves.
As sequels do, Harrow the Ninth picks up after the ending of the first book in the series, Gideon the Ninth. Only, not really. Not really, because we are following Harrow’s story told through 2nd person narration (for most of the novel). Not really, because we are following Harrow’s story as it alternates between what happens in Gideon the Ninth and after Gideon the Ninth. Not really, because the story is similar but different. Same characters, and similar situations, but different outcomes. In a nutshell: mind-boggling, alternate universe, unreliable narrator tomfoolery.
How’s that for a plot synopsis? Terrible. I know it’s terrible, but it’s the best that I can do. Well, maybe I can add a few keyword phrases to clear it up: space, super nasty giant insectoid beasties, people wearing other people wearing other people (I think?), lots of bones, connective tissue, and organs, Gods that smoke and have sexy dinner parties, and terrible epic poetry.
What I can find easy to do here is to distill this book down to one theme: unrelenting, and in some cases hundreds of years of, grief. Grief over lost loved ones, grief over disastrous choices, grief over, of all things, immortality. We’re supposed to buy into living forever as a gift but turns out that everlasting life is kind of a bummer. Living well beyond your expiration date is a very bad cocktail of power, boredom, grief, and fear. Cheers!
It’s also a novel about deeply traumatized people desperate for connection but completely unable to connect. Every character is steeped in sorrow and anxiety and awkwardness. Muir infuses all of those feelings into tangible things like bones and marrow and organs and blood. Even the environment she creates renders emotions as dampness, cold, things oily to the touch, and tepid bowls of soup. Everything, EVERYTHING, in their environment is imbued with what is going on inside the characters.
It ain’t an easy read, folks. Found myself having to backtrack often to try to pick up threads I had lost along the way. Spent a lot of time confused. Worth the effort, but was a lot to chew on. Very excited to see what the next book brings.