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Friday, June 28, 2019

A Memory Called Empire (2019) by Arkady Martine


Book Review
A Memory Called Empire (2019)
by Arkady Martine

  If you search the term, "space opera" on Google, you will read that it was coined as a pejorative term to describe over-wrought science fiction which mimicked the "opera" of a soap opera on television.  It was never a reference to opera the art form.  Space Opera is known for imitating models like ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, ancient China, etc, except with advanced weaponry and fast than light speed travel, all of it poorly explained to the reader.

  So to call A Memory Called Empire a space opera is accurate, but also a little dismissive.  There's nothing wrong with space opera per se, but it would be hard to imagine such a work transcending genre limitations.   However, Arkady Martine- a pseudonym for Anna Linden Weller, a scholar of the Byzantine Empire, is not your average space opera debutante, and I think her publisher, Macmillan, has high hopes for her Texicalaan, of which A Memory Called Empire is the first volume.

  I listened to the Audiobook- I think I might actually be too ashamed to read an actual copy of A Memory Called Empire.  They used a woman to narrate, which makes sense because the narrator and protagonist is a woman- a young ambassador sent from an independent mining outpost to the center of a giant galactic empire.  It is a human universe, though Martine appears to be setting up a conflict with the first "non human" civilization in the galaxy.  Martine's academic background shows up in her loving description of the Texicalaan imperial bureaucracy.

  Oh also Martine is LGBT and so is the main character, so that's cool, because the world of speculative science fiction can be pretty male and cis male heavy. 

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