Book: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
I have been super psyched about reading this book since I first heard the premise of Lesbian Necromancers in Space, because I mean, why the hell would I not want to read that book? As normal I have trouble with hardbacks and since I prefer to own the physical book I don’t tend to buy ebooks because I don’t really want to buy them twice, so getting an e-copy of this in the Hugo packet was pretty much a dream come true.
Before I get into it I do want to say that I was expecting a book that was a lot of fun at heart and maybe didn’t entirely take itself too seriously. It turned out to be so much better than that and I loved every bit of it. Waiting for the sequel is going to be a trial, let me tell you!
“Nonagesimus,” she said slowly, “the only job I’d do for you would be if you wanted someone to hold the sword as you fell on it. The only job I’d do for you would be if you wanted your ass kicked so hard, the Locked Tomb opened and a parade came out to sing, ‘Lo! A destructed ass.’ The only job I’d do would be if you wanted me to spot you while you backflipped off the top tier into Drearburh.” “That’s three jobs,” said Harrowhark.”
The book follows the main character of Gideon, a foul-mouthed lesbian who has had a less than excellent childhood and who only wants to get out of the personal hell she is living in and maybe get to romance or sleep with some hot woman along the way.
She is “persuaded” to come along with Harrowhark, the necromancer who rules the Ninth, as they head to another world for testing to become one of the Emperor’s chosen, which Harrow is determined to succeed at.
This turns into something of a murder mystery when certain of the other participants wind up dead and then there is a rush to discover if some dangerous creature is loose on the planet, or if one of the others is killing off their competition.
Gideon’s voice comes across very strongly in the book, she’s an easy character to love and honestly the more we find out about her the better it gets. She’s something of a secret sweetie, caring a lot more about other people than we might guess from her initial introduction into the story.
In fact Tamsyn Muir does an excellent line in slowly unravelling the layers of people’s characters so you get to know them a lot better as the story progresses and some of what you learn is really quite surprising. As the book is something of a murder mystery please be aware that characters you like may end up dead by the end, it’s pretty brutal in that regard.
“She had left Harrowhark a note on her vastly underused pillow— WHATS WITH THE SKULLS? and received only a terse— Ambiance.”
The setting is also really fascinating, especially as for the most part it seems like it would perhaps belong more in a fantasy book than in a science-fiction one, but the setting most definitely has elements of both. The magic is all necromancy based, but does appear to be treated almost as a science, whilst you do seem to have to have some innate talent to be a necromancer, study and understanding of the principles involved is a very important part of getting to be good at it.
It doesn’t feel vastly sci-fi, probably because the story is more of a weird mystery than anything else, but I get the feeling, given how the book ends, that the space part of the setting is going to be much more important in the future.
But yes, basically this book has a beautiful tongue-in-cheek humour (see the quotes for good examples) balanced with some excellent character work that really draws you into the story and has you rooting for people. I definitely wanted to know how things worked out and some of the surprises in it caught me entirely flat-footed. It’s well written, funny and very moving. Wish I had been able to read it sooner but better late than never I suppose!