Some Desperate Glory

The two novellas that Emily Tesh has out are fantasy. Her debut novel is space opera. Of course, depending on your view of such things, that might class as fantasy too, but it is certainly a very different thing. I was intrigued.

In some ways Some Desperate Glory reminds me of Suzy McKee Charnas’s Holdfast, because we start our tale in a patriarchal enclave that sees itself very much under siege. However, Gaea Station does not exist past the end of the world, only the end of Earth.

Let me unpack that. Holdfast is set in a post-nuclear-apocalypse world. While other worlds and other civilisations doubtless exist, no one on Earth knows or cares about that. Some Desperate Glory is set after a galactic war which ended with the destruction of Earth. Those few humans who are left have dedicated themselves to building up their military capability so that they can get revenge.

Except it soon becomes obvious that these are Not Nice People. Indeed, the central character, Kyr (shorty for Valkyr), is particularly obnoxious. She’s what passes for nobility on Gaea. She’s top of her cohort in everything military-related, and quite probably better than all of the boys except for her brother, Magnus. They are the pride of Gaea’s eugenics breeding program. And Kyr has swallowed the Gaea philosophy hook, line and sinker. It is no wonder that the other girls in her cohort hate her.

Meanwhile it is also becoming obvious that the enemy is not as bad as the folks on Gaea make out. They seem to be some sort of galactic technocracy ruled over by a benevolent AI called Wisdom who just wants all living beings to have happy and fulfilling lives. You start to wonder why they destroyed the Earth, and if they had been left with no choice.

And then, about half way through the book, Tesh pulls the rug out from under the expected narrative and goes off in a completely different direction. I love it when authors do that.

I can’t tell you much about the rest of the book because that would be way too spoilery. I can say that there is some interesting character development, and quite a bit of gay stuff. Also the abilities of Wisdom are such that this will tip the book over into fantasy for some readers. But hey, who cares about genre boundaries?

The usual suspects are not going to like this book much. In addition to the gay stuff, one of the major characters is black, and a lot of major characters are women. The main alien character doesn’t have gender. More than all of this, however, the book has definite Brexit vibes, except rather than being about British exceptionalism it is about human exceptionalism. The desire to stay out of a progressive civilization to preserve Patriarchy is the same. To her credit, Tesh has the galactic civilization have problems too.

I want to end with a slightly extended quote because it is a good example of the sort of character growth that Kyr goes through in the book. The other character is Cleo, the black girl who is the only one of Kyr’s cohort who comes close to matching her, and is actually a better shot.

Then she thought of something else. “But you shot at me,” she said. “When I was running away, in the Victrix hanger. You shot at me and missed.”

Cleo folded her arms and gave her a pointed look.

“…Oh,” Kyr said. “Right. Thank you.”

“You want to know something? You are the first person to ask me that question,” Cleo said. “They sat me down and interrogated me after you’d gone. Every single decision I made. They did not want to lose you and they wanted someone to blame. But you know what? No one said, Hey, Cleopatra, how come you missed that shot. I thought they would. They had my training scores and range records any time they wanted to check. But not once did it occur to those sons of bitches that I was better than that.”

Feminist fist bump!

book cover
Title: Some Desperate Glory
By: Emily Tesh
Publisher: Orbit
Purchase links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US UK
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