A Memory Called Empire was a book that sort of passed me by when it first came out. I wasn’t totally sold on the whole science fiction thing at the time (oh how times change) and I couldn’t quite work out what it was all about based on brief glimpses of the cover.
But here we are, it’s 2020 and I’ve got a hankering for really good character-driven science fiction – enter the paperback release of A Memory Like Empire and the kind people at Tor who sent me a copy for review – I was excited to get started.
Ambassador 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.
I love a science fiction novel that delves into ideas of ‘self’ and ‘identity’ so this felt like it would be a solid read for me. What else do I love? Murder mysteries! With all that in mind I feel like this book had the potential to be truly amazing.
It ended up not being amazing but hear me out because I do think this is worth a read.
I think the concept for this book is truly amazing and unique – I loved the idea of the fish out of water story combined with a murder mystery that ties into that ‘deadly technological secret’ – it makes a lot of these elements which have been fairly overdone in multiple genres a bit of a new life. It all combines to make an incredibly interesting plot coupled with some fascinating worldbuilding (alien cultures are always interesting).
But this isn’t, at least for me, a book that hits a home run on the first read. I’ve already marked this book for a re-read because I know I’ll get so much more out of it on a second read. That happens sometimes – I find it usually means a book is so dense in detail that it can’t all be comprehended on a first read. It’s quite unfortunate that my schedule doesn’t allow me to read all the books I review twice – I think it would have a big impact on my ratings! So yes the detailed worldbuilding and character development is there, but it’s not seamlessly integrated into the story, which leaves me needing to re-read to absorb everything. It’s something I often find with books that tackle this kind of scope.
Some of the aspects of this story that I found particularly enjoyable were the way the story valued information, from everything from memory to physical information being encrypted. This was a really interesting focus for a story, and I liked the significant role information (and misinformation) had within the plot. Basically, give me more cyphers please and thankyou.
This book has a lot of political intrigue which long-time readers will know is not my forté because I suck at remembering names and who is affiliated with whom – but in this case, I think the curse of the ‘need to re-read’ strikes again. That’s a personal problem that I have and not something I think will affect other readers – particularly if politics is one of the things you love in a book.
Overall, I think this is a really strong book and I can see why so many people have enjoyed it. I’m going to rate it a solid 3 stars now and I’ll definitely make an effort to re-read it at some point because I’m certain I’ll have a better time!
My rating: 3 / 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher – all opinions are my own.
A Memory Called Empire is out now!
What say you? Would you re-read to change the rating of a book? Let me know in the comments below!