My curiosity was piqued when I learned that Kameron Hurley's God's War was a nominee for the 2012 Nebula Award for best novel. But since it had been blurbed by Jeff VanderMeer and his taste in books and mine don't often agree, I was a bit reticent to give it a shot. And yet, Night Shade Books has been publishing some killer material for a while now, so I caved in and decided to give it a go.
And hot damn am I happy I did! Indeed, Kameron Hurley's God's War is everything I want a book to be and then some! Had I read it in 2011, it would have tied for my favorite read of the year alongside Steven Erikson's The Crippled God. Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. Hurley's debut is better than C. S. Friedman's Legacy of Kings, George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons, R. Scott Bakker's The White-Luck Warrior, and James S. A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes!
Here's the blurb:
Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn't make any difference...
On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there's one thing everybody agrees on--
There's not a chance in hell of ending it.
Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war--but at what price?
The world is about to find out.
The worldbuilding is top notch. Her vision is quite unique and the world she created comes alive in a manner that is seldom seen. Islam has taken to the stars, but the religion has evolved over the centuries. That facet of the novel was brilliantly done, with so much left to be disclosed. Revelations are few and far between, which only makes reading the book more fascinating. There are no info-dumps, so the various concepts retain a definite mysterious aura that makes you beg for more. Hurley's narrative creates a vivid imagery that makes the ravaged world leap off the pages. I'm looking forward to discovering more about the origins of the long-lasting war and the different societies/religions populating the planet.
Add to that some strange insectile technology and magic, as well as some cool concepts such as the bel dames and alien gene pirates, and what you end up with is nothing short of superb worldbuilding. Kameron Hurley has created something truly special. If you are one of those jaded science-fiction reader who believes to have seen it all, think again. Kameron Hurley might blow your mind!
In a war-torn and contaminated world, you cannot expect goodie-two-shoes men and women. The product of a brutal and unforgiving environment, the characters are what you expect them to be. Hurley's characterization is similar to that of authors such as Joe Abercrombie and George R. R. Martin. Forget black-and-white protagonists, for every single character in God's War has shades of grey. Nothing is as it seems, and the more you read, the more this work continues to resound with depth. Nyx may be a bit too kick-ass to be fully believable, yet she remains a more or less genuine three-dimensional protagonist. Add to that a phenomenal supporting cast of engrossing men and women, chief among them the magician Rhys, and you have a novel that is well nigh impossible to put down.
This one was paced to perfection. Weighing in at only 288 pages, God's War grabs hold and won't let go. A veritable page-turner, my only complaint was that it ends too quickly. It's a good thing I already have a copy of the sequel, Infidel, awaiting my attention.
Yes, God's War is a violent tale set against the backdrop of a centuries-old holy war. But beyond all the blood and violence, it's a beautifully crafted work of art that keeps astonishing you when you least expect it. The author's prose is dark and brooding, the rhythm often balls-to-the-wall, yet she finds ways to hit you with touching moments that pack a powerful punch in terms of emotional impact. Kameron Hurley is a gifted writer and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the Bel Dame Apocrypha series.
Brutal, uncompromising, brilliant, enthralling: That's God's War in a nutshell.