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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

A Memory Called Empire

Copyright 2019 by Arkady Martine

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Good (3/5)

I first read this in 2022.

This is the first volume of the Teixcalaan series.

The Teixcalaan Empire rules half the galaxy. Within that expanse, but not yet subsumed by it, is Lsel Station, a twenty-kilometre wide toroidal space habitat. The young and terribly inexperienced Mahit is leaving Lsel Station to travel to the capital city of this incredible empire. She is the new Ambassador for Lsel station.

Inexperienced she may be, but Lsel stationeers have a secret. Through electronic wizardry they retain the memories of their chosen predecessors in a small device called an imago implanted in the skull. Majit has chosen the imago of the previous Ambassador so, all being well, she'll have the experience of the previous ambassador to guide her.

Unfortunately, all is not well. Her imago has failed, the contained memory lost and possibly destroyed. Now she is alone, and terribly inexperienced, in the gigantic world-city capital of an empire on the brink of civil-war.

Golly Gosh. This is really great. Arkady has created a beautifully-imagined culture in her Teixcalaan Empire, and a very fine heroine in Mahit. Mahit arrives to find herself just a barbarian pawn struggling to survive between the rival would-be Emperors. But she finds trusty friends, understands why Lsel station is so important, and finally starts to seize control. Mahit does seem to do an awful lot of thinking and we follow her every single thought so this novel could be described as a little wordy. It is occasionally, dare I say, long-winded. However the plot is taut, the writing is precise, observant of subtleties, yet delightful and often lyrical. It is excellent stuff.

What's it got? Interstellar empires, space fleets, conspiracies, revolutions, AIs, even aliens. But above all else, it has the coruscatingly-brilliant Three Sea Grass, spy nonpareil. I admit that I, like her friend Twelve Azalea, fell head-over-heels for her.

Loaded on the 12th June 2022.
Cover of A Memory Called Empire