Book Review – The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

I won’t lie, Bloggos, I went into this book with pretty much zero expectations. I’d never read Hurley before, hadn’t even read the copy on the back of the book before I tucked into it. All I knew was that it was Science Fiction, people were raving about it on twitter, and that I really liked the cover. It reminds me of the armor in Mass Effect, and any book where I can envision Commander Shepard as the protag is bound to get my attention.

My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

the light brigade

The Light Brigade takes place in the somewhat distant future, after climate change as led to wars that completely restructured the world powers. Instead of governments there are corporations that own great swathes of the planet, and just like corporations today, they are greedy, sending their soldiers to fight one another endlessly. Citizenship is hard to come by, often bought and paid for by joining a Corporation’s military corps. If you survive the experience.

The main character, Dietz, who remains of unspecified gender until the end of the book, joins Tene-Silvia Corp in what was once Brazil, in the hopes of getting Citizenship. And exacting revenge on the humans of Mars for obliterating two-thirds of São Paulo in an event known as the Blink.

But the Corps isn’t anything like what they thought. Bloody, sure. Grim, yes. Brutal, absolutely. But it becomes clear early on that the travel technology the Corp uses, very similar to the teleportation in Star Trek (Beam me up, Scotty!) is affecting Dietz much differently than the way it does everyone else. Dietz begins to question their Corp, their past, and their future as they unravel the truth of the Blink and the war between the Corporations and Mars.

The really cool thing about going into this book utterly unfamiliar with it, is that I had a very similar reaction to the book’s events as the main character. There’s a huge WTF moment in the early pages of this book and it was made even better by sharing it with the protagonist.

What I loved:

  • The narration. Dietz is written as a badass through and through, but they aren’t without feeling. I made a gender assumption in the first half of the book, but realized that I had never once read a pronoun or descriptor that told me if Dietz was a man or woman, or whether they identified as either. After my moment of realization, I also realized that it didn’t matter in the least. That was intentional and I think it was incredibly well done.
  • The gore, which isn’t something I can say very often. In film I can’t stand gore or body horror of any kind, but in fiction I’m much more willing to take on the labor of imagining physical atrocity. There is no shortage of that in this book, but I never once felt that it was gratuitous. While there were times when I was grossed out, I never thought that the moment didn’t need to be in the book or that a description was superfluous. That’s a really fine balance to maintain and Hurley did it exceedingly well.
  • The characters. There are quite a few people to keep track of, and I did confuse a couple of them early on, but honestly, with how that book plays out, it actually added to the immersion of the story. Dietz story is a complex and weaving one, and getting a couple people mixed up is just par for the course. But, once I did know who everyone was, I loved them. Particularly Tanaka, Jones, and the narrator. We learned a lot about Dietz through how they saw, described and interacted with the others in their squad.
  • ******SPOILER*******  ******SPOILER******  ******SPOILER******
    • I normally don’t dig time travel in books. It either confuses me, or it’s simply too unbelievable to work for me. It’s a personal failing more than anything, but this book did an amazing job handling such a complex and intimidating subject. It felt real, mostly because of Dietz’s confusion and their struggle to make sense of everything as they continued forward as best they could. I was really impressed.

******END SPOILER******  ******END SPOILER******  ******END SPOILER******

What I didn’t love:

  • The ending? Kinda. Things to get wrapped up and there is resolution and hope by the end. But it is sort of vague and left up to the reader to decide what the ending means for the story as a whole. It’s hard to explain without spoiling the whole book, which I won’t do here.
  • The book very obviously is anti-corporation, which is great. So am I. I think Hurley did a great job exploring what a future Earth ruled by six major corporations would look like. I have no complaints there. I guess I felt like the message was sort of heavy handed. It wasn’t the book that led me to anti-corporation sentiments, but that the book is pure anti-corporation sentiments. Does that make sense? The way the themes were expressed in the book didn’t give me, the reader, the chance to discover the themes organically. They were there from the beginning, never hiding, and never giving me a chance to try and interpret them otherwise. I don’t even think this is actually a bad thing. It tracks for the sort of character Dietz is, and honestly was refreshing. But it was also a little alienating. I’m still stewing it over and it’s been more than a week since I finished the book. That means it’s probably a good thing, now that I think about it.
Image result for the light brigade book
The artwork is just insanely good.

So, as you can see, there wasn’t much I didn’t like about this book. And even the things I didn’t like weren’t actually bad enough for me to ding the book’s rating at all. It’s a super compelling story that had me flipping pages faster than I could really read them, I had to keep telling myself to slow down or else I’d get really confused.

This book has led me to add Hurley’s other books to my TBR. She’s a powerhouse and I want to read as much of her work as I can. According to reviews I’ve read, The Stars are Legion should be on the top of my pile soon.

I won’t be back on this weekend, barring any sort of news that requires sharing. So until Monday, Bloggarts!

 

BZ

 

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