Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: Gideon the Ninth

It’s very hard to explain the plot of Gideon the Ninth, it feels more like an experience that a novel. So trying to describe what happens comes out like some sort of fever dream.

It’s kind of like a murder mystery in a creepy old house, but instead of normal people it’s necromancers and sword fighters. And the house is staffed entirely by skeletons and isn’t so much haunted as infested with arcane constructs and stuff like that. IT’S DEEPLY WEIRD. The necromancers and their cavaliers have to basically figure out how to attain god-hood by becoming Lyctors – but as they try to solve the puzzles set out for them, they start to get brutally murdered.

The main characters we follow are from the Ninth House, Gideon and Harrowhark. They basically hate each other with an intensity so hot it would make the sun feel inadequate. But they go to meet this challenge to finally be rid of each other (and also through trickery).

NONE OF THIS REALLY MATTERS BECAUSE YOU SHOULD JUST GO READ IT.

It’s getting plenty of praise, which I think is well deserved. It didn’t make me ugly cry like Gods of Jade and Shadow but has left me quite spellbound by the sheer audacity and cleverness of it all. The universe created is so strange and yet familiar, that you know that you’re going to be surprised by further revelations in then next books. And unlike Velocity WeaponI am desperate to read the next volumes.

There is a solid ending to this novel, that like the best beginnings of a series, only introduces you to the next level of batshit craziness. There’s a profound discovery at the end of the novel that makes the read worth it, but enough of the universe is held back that it’s just teasing you to come back for more. I think we’ve basically only scratched the surface of the deeply weird shit this series is capable of, and I’m saying that with the full knowledge that this there was already a mountain of deeply weird shit in this novel. I mean, necromancers.

The other things that makes this novel reading are the characters, they are all so fabulously strange and fun. Gideon herself is in some ways deeply naive (having lived in the Ninth house, which is basically like living in an ossuary…in space) but also been winnowed by her experiences to be efficient, clever and at times utterly ruthless. She’s funny and profane, kind and mean, full of hate but also of forgiveness. None of the cast of characters felt one dimensional, they all had such different qualities, seen through Gideon’s eyes. I loved reading Gideon, she’s so instantaneously likeable and readable.

The way the universe was built up was like being slowly cocooned in weirdness and  arcane lore. At certain times I had to reread bits because of all the weird necromantical stuff happening, or that I missed a particular important line. But at some point I didn’t notice the transition of how strange everything was and ended up fully immersed into the universe. Of course Harrowhark can do all that weird shit with bones, that happened in that chapter and also she’s good at bones. The challenges throughout the novel give a natural ramp up to the abilities of the characters, as well as character growth.

Anyway, it’s fantastic. It’s clever and intriguing, original and strange, dark but super funny. I desperately want to read the series, but given that this novel just came out, I’m going to have to wait a bit. I really want to dress like Gideon for Halloween.

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