Book Reviews: Second Books in Two Science Fiction Series

A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan Book 2) by Arkady Martine. Tor, 2021. 9781250186461. 496pp.

This is a sequel to Martine’s A Memory Called Empire. That one is about an ambassador from a space station trying to help her people maintain their independence from the Teixcalaan Empire, which is her personal obsession. The story starts quietly, with a failed attempt to integrate the memories of her predecessor into the ambassador’s mind, and ends with a bang. Great book.

(minor spoiler) This sequel starts with that ambassador, Mahit Dzmare, back on her home station. Things are pretty bad there, so when she’s offered an out she leaves to help Teixcalaan establish contact with an alien species they may already be at war with. The aliens are technologically advanced and seem both brutal and unknowable. That’s part of the story, a strange tale of a violent and mysterious first contact. It’s woven in with a romance that continues to develop from the first book, a relationship that is trying and maybe failing to establish itself across a cultural divide. And off to the side, far away but also involved, is the story of a very young boy who will one day be the Emperor of Teixcalaan as he tries to learn who his allies are, what he values, and how to exercise the power and influence he already possesses.

There are heart stopping moments and amazing writing in this book (which makes sense as poetry is at the heart of the Teixcalaan Empire), but don’t skip the first in the series.

Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds. Orbit, 2018. 9780316555678. 432pp.

This is a sequel to The Prefect, which it looks like was republished last year as Aurora Rising. (I like the new cover design but prefer the original cover.)

This is another “police” procedural starring Prefect Tom Dreyfus and other familiar characters, set in a high-tech period of human habitation in the Glitter Band, a civilization of about 10,000 habitats around a planet called Yellowstone. (Other books by Reynolds take place in the same setting, but in wildly different time periods.)

The central mystery in this book is why an increasing number of citizens are suddenly, inexplicably dying. It clearly has something to do with their neural implants, which are cooking their brains. As investigations continue into what links the victims (including interviewing backups of those who have already died), a man urging habitats to secede from the Glitter Band’s democracy seems to be gaining traction. He’s also made the mistake of irritating Dreyfus, and could be involved in whatever is killing people.

#bookreview #sciencefiction #mystery


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