gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

Servant of the underworld - Aliette de Bodard

I needed cheering up (in my next life I'm due a much better body) and so Angry Robot sent me books. I prefer to think of it as them being omniscient and knowing I needed my own copy of Tidhar's Bookman and a copy of Aliette de Bodard's Servant of the Underworld, but they actually were regular review books.

I haven't actually reviewed de Bodard's book yet. I read it and made notes and then my life went pear-shaped. I've had more Big Life Drama in the last month than anyone ought to get in two years. I'm fed up with Big Life Dramas. My medical tests are in abeyance until I am clear of fluorescent dye (that sounds much cooler than it is, I suspect) and I want some joy in life. I have to rest, of course, being not quite well (I'm not in hospital, so I'm 'not quite well' – if I had not been sent home from hospital so quickly, I would be 'rather unwell,' unless I had an operation or the heart thing was terminal in which case I would not be typing this). As well as rest, I need books. Not quite well people need books. This is an absolute. See, Angry Robot is omniscient!

Anyhow, I'm fed up with all the medical tests and have a few days reprieve, so let me tell you about Aliette de Bodard's book instead. Please excuse typos. I'm still learning how to use my new and strange vision. The best bit about my vision today is how it goes wobbly then cross-eyed when I'm tired. No-one told me that losing part of my sight would be funky!

First of all, I love the cover. That's something I couldn’t have known from the electronic copy, so it was worth waiting to see. The cover begs to be in hardback, to be hidden on a bookshelf, to cry out 'Read me – I'm a safe, old-fashioned exotic adventure.' Then you pull out the safe, old-fashioned spine and see the splash of blood on the cover. Very clever cover art, and exactly reflects the nature of the book within.

It looks safe and it's very bloody. It's a bit old-fashioned, too, and it's definitely exotic.

It bugs me that I entirely lack the knowledge to assess how accurate it is. That's how exotic it is. I hardly know a thing about the Aztecs. I don’t know the tale patterns of the Aztecs, or the religion, or the cultural norms. I really only kinda know the shape of Aztec ruins. This means I had to trust in de Bodard's tale.

Given my high level of pig ignorance, it's wrong if I point out that women get a rather raw deal in terms of the society and the plot, when it's quite possible this is because of the material de Bodard draws on. So I'll say it is a book about men. About male ritual and magic. Lots of violence. Lots of tension of the arcane thriller variety. Not much inner dialogue or deep understanding.

In fact, it's a very Angry Robot book. It fits perfectly within its sub-genre and is a rather good example of that sub-genre. It's tightly written and well thought out. Not my kind of book, but nonetheless good. It's also not the kind of book that you'll read the first page and know if you'll love. Read a bit more – maybe the first hundred pages, and then venture an opinion.

I like it and am happy to have it (and still love Angry Robot's 'give a blogger a book and wait and see what happens' philosophy), because it makes my book collection a bit more complete.

If you like strongly built exotic settings, without the safety valve of an outside to protect you from those settings; if you like violence; if you like a touch of the supernatural thriller and the mystery, then this book is one you should definitely check. Despite it being very much not my kind of book, I read it to the end, want to hang on to the hard copy, will recommend it to friends and will probably read it again.

PS No links today. My eyes are still adjusting and there are some things I can't do yet - proofing links is one of them.
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