Reading a book like this takes work.
You’re cast into an unknown world. With strange people. With different lingo. And in space.
The author isn’t going to be babying you, there’s no handholding here. There are no footnotes explaining strange new words or worlds. There is no glossary.
In fact it opens with a battle. A huge battle with formations and attacks and well, it’s not easy to grasp what’s going on and at times I have to put down the book and wonder, is this for me?
But I persist. There must be a reason why this book has been raved about, why it has won awards. Right?
And it is when we met General Jedao, a disgraced general, long dead yet also undead. He is one of two main characters here. The other is Kel Cheris whom we meet when the book opens. She’s a captain who gets into trouble with some tactics she uses in a battle. And to redeem herself she has to take back an important station that has fallen into enemy hands. Her solution?Taking Jedao out of stasis and…. downloading him into her body? There’s something about how no one can seem him except for his shadow. And only she can hear him and speak for him.
What is especially intriguing is that Jedao, while being a brilliant tactician and all, kinda went cuckoo and massacred his own people.
The thing is I spent a lot of time reading this book, mind completely bamboozled. I didn’t know what was going on with regards to the war and the military tactics and all that. But I did know that I really enjoyed this very bizarre relationship between a female soldier and the dead disgraced male general.
And it made even more sense when I read more about Yoon Ha Lee who at 12 realized he was trans, identifying as male.
In an article for Book Smugglers, he writes:
“There isn’t a single trans character, but Cheris (body) and Jedao (mind) ended up being a trans system, metaphorically anyway.”
So it’s a space opera! With math! And complicated battles that you won’t understand! And a wonderful combination of female-male character(s), one of whom is probably a psychopath and may try to kill the other (despite inhabiting her body)!
It’s clever! It’s mad! It’s clever mad!
(It makes me write in a lot of exclamation points! )