My Recollections Of. . .
A Memory Called Empire
Leading a solitary, somewhat reclusive existence as I do, I nevertheless keep an eye out for something good to read. This is another of those authors who were mentioned within the expansive, Arcadian entity that is Black Gate. And as I’ve come to appreciate, if they make a recommendation, then I’d be silly not to listen.
A Memory Called Empire is well worth a read. Here’s the back cover blurb.
Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only
to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but
fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his
death wasn't an accident―or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of
political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.
Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan's unceasing expansion―all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret―one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life―or rescue it from annihilation.
So, what do we get?
Mahit Dzmare is from a small, self-contained colony out of the edges of the vast Teixcalaanli Empire called Lsel. The colonists are a rather proud society who extend the depth of their cultural heritage by the use of IMAGO implants; tiny, sub dermal devices that allow the personality, skills and memories of important people to be ‘recorded’ and passed on to a suitably matched host.
That’s how we’re introduced to Mahit Dzmare. She is selected to replace the former ambassador to the Teixcalaanli court – Aghavn Yskandr – whose death, along with the circumstances surrounding it, is suspiciously devoid of detail. (And this from a society where every aspect of life is recorded, analyzed, and used to update an almost omniscient planet-wide AI that serves the goals of the emperor). Or does it?
Another hurdle is presented in that the imago devices should contain the very latest memories of the former recipient, but in Dzmare’s case, Yskandr hasn’t been home in fifteen years. So, not only is she unprepared to walk the tightrope that awaits her, but she obviously wants to know what happened to the former ambassador. And THIS shortfall lays the basis of our story. One where Dzmare’s rose-tinted view of an idealistic, wonderfully balanced and cultured civilization is brought crashing down amid a cauldron of political ambition, imperialistic ideals, and outright xenophobia toward anyone who isn’t pure Teixcaannli. Yes, intrigue abounds in a nicely crafted little whodunit investigation that, while uncomplicated, remains intriguing enough for you to want to keep reading to get to the bottom of the mystery.
I will admit that it took me a little while to get comfortable with Arkaday Martine’s writing style. But once I had, I found the story to be a pleasing balance of ‘space-opera scope meets small-town girl’ trying to keep her head above water in a place that will chew you up and spit you out if you let it. And Martine does that rather well, as you get the clear impression that while Dzmare almost drowns in an oceanlike society filled with legends, history, partisan propaganda, and the very latest hi-tech wizardry, she’s never been more alone in her life. A nice touch that keeps things real.
I look forward to seeing how the story progresses in, A Desolation Called Peace.