Monday With Mildred: “Gideon the Ninth”

Gideon the Ninth book cover

Gideon the Ninth

Climb aboard the trope train conducted by New Zealand writer Tamsyn Muir as she necromances a series of tired to death tropes, pairing some of them in ways that defy description. Like putting pineapple on pizza. Some of them I was unaware of because I don’t do anime. Recently one of my friends posted about this book, and because I trust him I went ahead and bought it. Then I spent several days reading the monster. I say that because it’s long and very convoluted and needs a lot of paying attention to.

For a while I didn’t dislike it, but reading felt like a real slog with several factors at play. Some of it is the reader being thrown immediately into a very fraught situation with a lengthy and mysterious history and some of it is that sudden immersion into a cleverly and deeply built world that is so different from anything we’ve known that I felt like the story wasn’t washing over me so much as making me wade through it. Some of it was irritation of the book having been oversold as an “insane romp” and a “crazy good time”. Yeah, no. It’s fascinating and impossible to guess where it’s going but not crazy or insane for quite a while. It’s also very well written with solid language that occasionally goes super flowery, though that fits the setting. Some of it was having to continually readjust my vision of how Gideon looks, since you can’t base it on the really cool cover art. Some of it was not liking any of the protagonists.

Gideon has had a super hard life and little chance of it ever improving, sure, but her unendingly smart mouth and too-long (though super inventive) insults got on my nerves to begin with and took a long time to appreciate. I’m also not used to a protagonist who is not only unlearned, but not terribly bright. Gideon is massively average in every way. We do know she has large biceps, as that’s a kind of small, recurring joke. She works out a lot.

My biggest disappointment was the book had been hyped as this ginormously great thing, super insane in the best way and oooh, there’s a LESBIAN and a crumbling gothic mansion in space. The setting was a great gothic hulk, but I wouldn’t classify the story as insane or crazy, though it definitely, finally gets to BIG. I found myself thinking the person who would best direct this is Zach Snyder, and I really don’t like his movies because they generally end Too Big. Muir likes to mess with your mind, and she likes to make you pay close attention to what’s going on and spring surprises on you that leads the story off into what seems like a whole new direction until all of a sudden you find yourself on the same path but it looked a heck of a lot different for a while.

Every now and then she will make you laugh out loud, and that’s always fun.

I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if it hadn’t been described to me as practically the second coming. Reading it is a very immersive process, because there are a LOT of characters and a very involved story. I was really surprised when I discovered, fairly late in the book, that I had actually, finally, gotten them all straight in my head. *pats myself on the back* The world building is super impressive, and the language is great. She uses big words, but nothing like “pullulated” to make you feel stupid like some other author I reviewed. She uses big words because they’re the best tool and didn’t seem to think the reader would be lost because of it.

But then I came to the end of the book and ran into yet another trope that I won’t name but that honks me off so much that I sat staring angrily at my kindle for the better part of ten minutes before getting up to begin writing this review. I wasn’t going to say anything about it, but after a restless night which saw me getting up and reading other reviews online, I decided to mention my irritation. There is a sequel, Harrow the Ninth, and I believe the third part of the trilogy comes out this summer, but I won’t be buying either of them. I did read the Cliff Notes on the second book and will do the same for the third, but only out of a morbid curiosity.

My recommendation is to definitely read this if you like a solid science fiction set in a mysterious world set far, far in the future. There are a lot of characters and a story that takes a long time being revealed. You might like Gideon and Harrow and the others, but I never quite reached that point, though I didn’t dislike them as much at the end as in the beginning. If you go in understanding this is a solid, fine example of science fiction, things might be easier for you than they did for me.

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