Book Review: Infidel by Kameron Hurley

Title: Infidel

Author: Kameron Hurley

Series: Bel Dam Apocrypha #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: Nyx is a bodyguard in Mustallah, the capital city of Nasheen. The centuries-long holy war between Nasheen and Chenja is taking its toll, with shortages and rationing causing the Queen to lose power and popularity. While protecting the daughter of a Ras Tiegan Diplomat, Nyx is attacked by a group of assassins. Nyx survives, but begins to suffer from a strange, debilitating condition that nobody can identify. Caught up in a whirl-wind of intrigue involving Bel Dam Assassins plotting against the Queen, Nyx must learn who the rogue Bel Dam is, and find a cure for her illness, while avoiding the wrath of the queen she is trying to protect. The danger that swirls around her may have finally become too much, and Nyx’s colleagues and friends began to die. Will Nyx be next? -Goodreads

The Review:

Hurley is such a weird author. Especially within this series. But it’s kind of like a car wreck you can’t stop looking at. Not to say her work is a disaster, but rather that the story elements are so hard to read that you wonder why you’re putting yourself through the abuse…

But the writing is so good, you brace yourself and just keep going.

A Scifi world with warring factions, political intrigue, and a magic system based on the life energy of bugs… yeah, this isn’t your typical series. I’m always drawn to creative world-building and loved what Hurley developed here, even if some of the cool elements could’ve been pushed even further. That’s the thing though – stuff like the bug magic, which would get front and center attention in any other novel – was just one more cool element to many other cool things going on in this series that it’s almost treated like an afterthought. What would it be like to have so many original ideas for a series that you’d have to pick and choose what gets highlighted? So in that regard, I think parts of this series are absolutely brilliant.

I knew before venturing into this book that the author liked to use shock value to jar the reader. I was prepared for it, and indeed she didn’t pull any punches this time around. The thing is, she’s such a creative storyteller who’s not afraid to challenge the status quo and unapologetically incorporates taboo topics in her stories. This book was bursting with originality, and I feel like I haven’t even seen half of the work that went into it behind the scenes. So with that said, the shock-value elements – the ones I felt were incorporated just to get a reaction – felt like it cheapened the overall quality of the story. I don’t think they were needed, as the story was compelling, the writing exciting, and the characters interesting on their own. I buddy read this with a couple of friends, and they weren’t as put off by it as I was, but it ended up being a huge factor in my final rating. It’s worth mentioning that the subject matter in question hit one of my personal triggers.

Overall, I appreciate this author’s unconventionality so much, I plan to finish out this series and pick up everything else she has published. I’ve tried the first book in her Mirror Empire series and found it superb, and can’t wait to explore more.

Recommendations: this weird Scifi series is not for the faint of heart, so only dive in if you’re prepared to take a few gut punches along the way. Those who can endure will be rewarded with one of the most satisfyingly unconventional stories on the market. Bug magic, people. Bug magic.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


DNF Review: Seveneves by Neil Stephenson

sevenevesTitle: Seveneves

Author: Neil Stephenson

Series: N/A (Standalone)

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: DNF

The Overview: An exciting and thought-provoking science fiction epic—a grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years. What would happen if the world were ending? A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space. But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . .

Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.  

The DNF Review:

This is a reviewing feature I’ve been eyeballing on one of my favorite book blogs There Were Books Involved for a couple years now because I think it’s an excellent way to talk about an unfinished book fairly. I’m incredibly grateful because Nikki (the brains behind the blog, who has a most excellent name)  kindly allowed me to steal the idea and questions for my own blog. As my list of “amazing books to read” continues to grow, I find I have less and less time and patience to devote to the books I’m just not enjoying. I never would have considered DNFing a book ten years ago, but then I came across a quote, “Read the best books first, for you might not have the chance to read them all,” and have since made it my personal mantra. So let the Q&A begin!

This was a book club book that I pushed for because it sounded so dag-gun interesting. And interesting it was, but that’s as far as I go on it… Here are some reasons why Seveneves just missed the mark with me.

Did you really give Seveneves a chance?

Considering it’s an 800+ page book, I think making it 60% through qualifies as a fair chance. I invested a lot of time and energy into it.

Have you enjoyed other books in the same genre?

Many. I can’t seem to get enough science fiction lately, although I admit I lean more towards space operas like Leviathan Wakes & Red Rising (although the hard-core science fiction stuff doesn’t scare me as long as it has good plot and character connection). Here are some of my favorites:

Did you have certain expectations before starting it?

Yes – colossal ones; and I blame the synopsis. It gives the impression (to me at least) that the focus of the book centers around the 7 distinct races who evolved from the survivors of earth. Well, I was 50% through the book and EARTH HADN’T EVEN BEEN DESTROYED YET! Meaning the main thing that drew me to the book really wasn’t even its focus. I read another 100 pages or so and finally decided I was tired of waiting for a payoff that seemed like it was never coming. Between the pacing issue and the false advertising, I’d had enough.

What ultimately made you stop reading?

I kind of touched on that already, but I’d still like to elaborate: 2 things – the waaaaaay too drawn out “beginning” (i.e. at least 60% of this 800+ page book), and the fact that one of my book club members did some research and found that most people basically enjoyed the book but DIDN’T LIKE THE ENDING! O_o. I thought “well, why am I working so hard to get to that portion of the story if most people found it a letdown?” Excellent question. I threw in the towel and picked up a Sanderson instead.

Is there anything you liked about Seveneves?

I found the characters interesting even though they always kept me at arms distance. I also love science & astronomy, and especially appreciate the research within the book… Although there were many places it could’ve been integrated more smoothly.

Would you read anything else by this author?

No… I’m too disappointed in too many things.

So you DNF’d the book – would you still recommend it?

Not of my own initiative, but if someone professed a love for story elements I remembered from it, I might mention it.

by Niki Hawkes