Monday, August 03, 2020


Sometimes fiction works like a Rorschach test - you look at the ink blot and what you "see" reveals what's on your mind. If GIDEON THE NINTH is my Rorschach test, it seems to reveal an intense dislike of teenagers...? (I kid, I kid...)

The two principal characters of the novel are teenage girls - one a fighter, the other a necromancer who bosses her around. They go to a space castle, people start dying and The Last Person You'd Ever Suspect is the killer.

Despite living in a "dark" fantasy setting that just screams "Goth", these two protagonists behave very much like real teens at their most annoying: callous, shallow, self-centered, emotionally immature, occasionally psychopathic, obsessed with superficial appearance and "attitude", snarky, sexually frustrated, shortsighted... and sometimes quite stupid.

This novel was on the reading list for the SF/Fantasy reading circle I'm in. Those in the reading circle who had enjoyed GIDEON THE NINTH explained to me what I didn't get: The protagonists were written that way on purpose.

I guess that's true and original and subtly clever, perhaps even a satire pointed at YA fantasy itself. But... those are still a pair of annoying, snarky teenagers! Truth is, I can't stand their company.

Then there's the other "big thing" the reading circle explained to me: The setting.

Basically, the novel can be read as modern Fantasy from the viewpoint of the "bad guys" - who deal with abuse, murder, black magic, plotting and mutual hatred as a matter of daily business. (The phrase "the banality of evil" springs to mind.)

If that is Life On the Dark Side, then its darkest secret is how drab and boring it really is. Maybe it's parody. I have NO idea.

GIDEON THE NINTH has been hyped up as "Lesbian necromancers in space." Should've been "Frustrated High School Mean Girls in Gothland." If you like that sort of thing, good for you. And I mean that from the very bottom of my heart.

FOOTNOTE: After this review was written (it originally appeared on my Instagram feed), GIDEON THE NINTH was nominated for a Hugo Award.
Oy vey...

#gideontheninth #bookreviews #books #fantasy

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