Kameron Hurley's "The Mirror Empire"


First, I want to confess that I've never read any of Kameron Hurley's other books--a sad lack that I believe makes me a total loser in the world of fantasy. Ms. Hurley has apparently snuck behind my back and written several hundred books and, in the process, been nominated for every prize from the Arthur C. Clark Award to the Nebula and the Tiptree. My only excuse is that I remember Alice Bradley Sheldon when she was still writing as Mr. Tiptree so I'm blaming it all on advanced age. Since the age of 10, I pretty well knew that I'd read every new book of Science Fiction and Fantasy that was worth reading and now, at 62, I have to go back and find the God's War Trilogy and a lot of short stuff. Grumble, Grumble. 

Enough about my problems, let's get to the Mirror Empire. 

From the second you begin this book, you realize two things. First, that Hurley is a brilliant writer with an exceptional ability to create complete worlds that make sense despite the fact that they only have the most tangential relationship to our own. Second is that you really need to take notes because you are going to rocket from world to world to mirror world and from character to character and subplot to subplot. (No, there are no rockets involved--that's old-school science fiction). 

The world of the Mirror Empire is a multitude of adjacent realities where power comes from which particular colored moon/star is in the sky and the same person can absolutely be in many places at once. I used to think that the writers of Veronica Mars (the TV show, not that rotten movie) were completely without mercy since they would slam in a plot arc from 5 shows ago without explanation or setup. Hurley outdoes them easily, throwing new people and new versions of the same people at you in new places and mirror versions of the same places with blinding speed. 

Don't let this stop you from reading The Mirror Empire. Like most things that don't suck, it doesn't hand you the story on a silver platter and beat you over the head with big signs that say "Plot Point" or "Character Beat" but instead forces the reader to think and stretch. And the story you  get is well worth the effort. Colliding worlds, poison in the corridors of power, plucky orphans who refuse to give up, veteran fighters who learn new tricks--this has got it all and usually in two or three different versions and up to five sexes.Throw in lots of bloody battles--large and small--and it's like playing Game of Thrones on one of those Star Trek 3D chessboards.

This is wonderful, chewy writing that sticks in your mind and pops up at the strangest times. The people are real and fully-developed (and real and fully-developed (and real and fully-developed)) and the plots and subplots swirl in a dance that is as good as anything in the Malazan Book of the Fallen or the Baroque Cycle.

Check it out, your brain needs the exercise.

Yeah, this is a strong 4 out of 5. Definitely recommended. 

(Warning, I wrote this from the ARC advance copy and Hurley warned in her tweets that she's changed most of the book since then. The eventual release version could be about three children and a kitten for all I know.)

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