Book reviews / Science Fiction / Top picks

Book review: Archivist Wasp

Where to begin.
There’s such a collision of genres with Nicole Kornher-Stace’s novel that could have gone horribly wrong, but instead it just made me have ALL THE FEELS.

It was good on the level of The Doomsday Book or Ancillary Justice. It was just expectation-defyingly excellent in a way that I’m having problems articulating.

The story is simple and complex at the same time. It’s set in some post-apocalyptic future but ghosts also exist. Over the centuries a different religion has popped up, more like a cult, around the Catchkeeper. Young girls are trained up to be The Archivist who takes notes on the ghosts but also…well…dispatches the ghosts from this earthly plane.

Each Archivist needs to kill the previous Archivist to take their place and is also lorded over, beaten and traumatised by the Catchkeeper-priest. She also has to kill 3 other girls every year if she wants to stay alive herself.

Archivist Wasp hates this existence and wants to escape but she has failed a few times in the past.

THEN SHE TEAMS UP WITH A GHOST AND GOES TO THE UNDERWORLD TO HELP HIM FIND ANOTHER GHOST.

And you’re all, whaaat the ffuuucck is happening.

But you just roll with it, because it’s bloody fantastic. It’s like Orpheus going to the underworld but involves ghosts, superhuman soldiers, a cult and just all sorts of awesome weirdness.

There’s so much that could have not worked, but it all just works. It all makes sense. Okay, there’s a couple points where I was “that is just a tiny bit too convenient” but what book doesn’t have that? It is far less than a lot of books I’ve read anyway.

But it’s so good! The tension between Wasp and the Ghost. The whole unfolding mystery of the Ghost’s past and what he’s trying to find. The weirdness of the underworld. Wasp’s own personality, toughness, resilience but also elements of her utter despair at times and frustration. I just love them both to bits.

They’re almost the entire story. There are some other peripheral characters, like the Catchkeeper-priest, the other ghost they’re trying to find and the ‘upstarts’ who are the girls trained to become the Archivist and have to try and kill her. But even then, I think there’s gender balance and it totally passes the test with ease.

The whole weird world is expertly plotted and you don’t have to take too much in at once. The world building just happens around you without you noticing. It was just so immersive and a compulsive read.

I think this is the book I will tell all my friends to read forever because it was so good. Everyone read it. Then buy it again and give it to your friends to read. I want more of it! Wah! I want to read it again for the first time. I feel a tightness in my chest from ALL THE FEELS I JUST HAD.

If I was going to make a list of books to read, this would be on it. But I don’t make lists because lists are stupid. But seriously, this would be on the list.

READ IT. 100/5 stars.

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