Sunday, December 18, 2011

Review: Infidel by Kameron Hurley

Infidel by Kameron Hurley
373 pages
Night Shade Books

Infidel takes place on the planet Umayma, in a future so distance that the colony ship that brought settlers to a terraformed planet are eons rusted hulks and origin has faded into myth and legend.

The milieu is reminiscent of middle eastern society and religion. The tech is a fascinating mix of retro, futuristic and biological. Matter of fact, it soon becomes clear that not only are insects used as weapons they have been tailored for many things that once were done with motors and high tech electronics. Plus though all the inhabitant look, for the most part, act and think like humans, many are a far cry from what we would accept as human. Many have psychological and or physical powers that seem almost super human. The main character herself can be brought back from the most horrific death as long as she is not beheaded. One member of her team, a young male, is a shape shifter. While another can communicate and control the modified insects.

Even though the planet is terraformed, one faction (it is never clear who, and I suspect it was so long ago, no one remembers) has release many biological weapons which has transformed the local fauna into something very alien and dangerous. however, because it was so long ago, no one seems particularly upset by the present situation. The terra-forming may not have taken because it seems the environment is becoming more hostile over the years.

The world in embroiled in a war between competing factions that is so old, no one recalls when it began. But there are hints that it has been going on far far longer than anyone suspects.

Because the war has decimated the male population females hold many of the seats of power. One arm of this power base is an ancient society of assassins called bel dames.

The main character is called Nyx who belonged to the bel dames long ago but left the order years in the past. Permanent retirement seems to be out of the question though. Nyx has been making ends meet by taking on menial bodyguard assignments for her and her team.

However she is soon drawn back into the world of constant warfare and the savagery of the bel dames. An assignation attempt has been made on the queen, possibly by rogue bel dame members and Nyx has been hired to find out just exactly who and why the attempt took place. But the real reason may be that Nyx herself is being set up to take the fall by powers unseen.

Even at well over 300 pages, Infidel is riveting. Initially it is a bit unsettling to be set down square in the middle of a strongly realized middle eastern milieu but it soon becomes such a strong part of what makes the book work that a world of burnous, mullah and mosque but curiously rickshaws and odd hodge-podge of different ethnic and religious factions, but no mention of budda, bible or koran. Like using a bay leaf. You get the flavor but the agent is removed before serving........

As for action, Infidel starts strong and finishes in a hail of all but the kitchen sink. At times though the book does slow and become introspective, but if anything it’s there for you to catch your breath. The book’s size keeps it from becoming a “quick” read however the setting and practically non-stop action insures that you will still find yourself picking up the work whenever possible.

Don’t let the setting put you off, Infidel is well worth a look see.

If you would like more info on the book, you can check Infidel at Night Shade Books here

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