A Memory Called Empire

Arkady Martine
A Memory Called Empire Cover

entertaining but generic - or - generic but entertaining?



Let me be upfront: this was an okay book, a nice book, an entertaining book, a Tor book, and I'd even recommend it if you need your contemporary space opera fix. But at the same time, it was very, very generic. Maybe that calls for a checklist?


EMPIRE - Indeed, empire. It's even in the title! What an easy target imperialism has become. Sadly, the Teixcalaanli empire is never menacing, it never shows its teeth. It is supposed to be a remorseless, planet gulping military machine, yet the Emperor is a friendly old man that managed peace for 80 years. The fact that Lesl Station - the home of our protagonist Mahit Dzmare and 30,000 other souls - managed to remain independent for decades only shows that the Teixcalaan aren't the boogeyman. To Martine's credit, the book does portray a believable form of cultural imperialism, but it's seen only through Mahit's eyes, and as she is a Teixcalanophile that again kinda removes the sting. At the end, I was rooting for the Emperor, and I never felt the opposition between Lesl & Teixcalaan - part of that is the fact that Lesl Station is never fleshed out. The same goes for Teixcalaan: while it does feature the outskirts of the Shiny City & its proletariat once, the book firmly focuses on the elite. As social critique it does not work, because Martine seems more infatuated with the Imperial Court and its mother-of-pearl exotica flower inlays.


Full review on Weighing A Pig..