by Kameron Hurley
Series: Bel Dame Apocrypha #1.5
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Publication Date: July 17, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Move over Mad Max―here comes Nyx.
Ex-government assassin turned bounty-hunter, Nyx, is good at solving other people’s problems. Her favorite problem-solving solution is punching people in the face. Then maybe chopping off some heads. Hey―it’s a living.
Her disreputable reputation has been well earned. To Nyx’s mind, it’s also justified. After all, she’s trying to navigate an apocalyptic world full of giant bugs, contaminated deserts, scheming magicians, and a centuries-long war that’s consuming her future. Managing her ragtag squad of misfits has required a lot of morally-gray choices.
Every new job is another day alive. Every new mission is another step toward changing a hellish future―but only if she can survive.
Nyx is a bounty hunter in Nasheen, which is stuck in a never-ending religious war with neighboring Chenja. The world building is a fascinating mix of magic and technology, mostly based on insects – a character breaks apart a fire beetle to start a fire, for instance, and bug bits and secretions are used to do everything from power cars to make bullets. Nasheen society is matriarchal, and also draws heavily on the Muslim religion, with mosques on every corner and the calls to prayer dividing up the day. Nyx’s team is a mishmash of the dregs of society, and it consists of Taite, a young com tech; Anneke, a hired gun who likes carrying around guns almost as big as herself; Rhys, a Chenjan bug magician, able to control swarms of bugs; and Khos, a bulky shape shifter. An ex-soldier and ex-assasin, Nyx’s existence consists mostly of bounty hunting and then drinking away her past, and the others on her team go along for various similar reasons. She’s deeply flawed, prickly, morally grey, and kind of a bitch, so of course I loved her. This anthology doesn’t have much of an overarching theme – it’s more of a series of heists that outline Nyx’s character and her relation to her team. While the first two stories are novella-length, the last three are short stories, and all of these were previously published on the author’s Patreon.
“Plotting?” he asked.
“You know me well enough to know I don’t think any of this shit through beforehand.”
“The Body Project” – ★★★★ – While out on a bounty hunt, Nyx and her team find a dead body – and a head floating in the window of the building several stories up. She quickly realizes it’s one of her former military team members, and someone who should already have been dead. Nyx, out of obligation to her old team member or some other whim, decides to investigate, and is drawn into a mystery that will endanger her current team.
“Anyway,” she said, “I’m in the market for a shifter anyway. You know anyone?”
The man raised his brows. “You’ve brought a dead shapeshifter here, which you admit was killed in your own basement, and want me, a shifter, to recommend a good shifter to you?”
“Yeah,” Nyx said.”
“The Heart Is Eaten Last” – ★★★★★ – This was my favorite of the bunch. Another job, another pretty woman lying to Nyx, another chance to get her whole team blown up. Nice and twisty, with some seriously messed up moments!
“We are discussing the plan we need to come up with to finish the job that we contracted for.”
“We should have just stolen her leg,” Taite said.
“Fuck you and the fucking leg,” Nyx said.”
“Soulbound” – ★★★★ – An easy job to round up some on-the-run magicians turns into an excursion into the disputed territory between Nasheen and Chenja. Surprisingly hilarious and action-packed.
“This is the hell you made yourself. I’d ask what you have to punish yourself for, but I’ve already seen enough in my time with you to justify every bit of this.”
“Crossroads at Jannah” – ★★★★ – A bit more background on some of the bug technology, another confrontation between Rhys and Nyx.
“You did me a favor in prison,” Nyx said. “I clear my debts.”
“I saved your life.”
“Sounds like a favor, doesn’t it?”
“Paint It Red” – ★★★ – Nyx, minus her team. An old prison friend calls in a favor, and Nyx joins her crew for a heist. A good story to end the anthology with, as it reaffirms the family that Nyx has drawn around herself, and that she’s not as morally bad as she’d have you think.
As a first introduction to Nyx, I think it works pretty well, and it definitely made me interested in picking up the rest of the books in the series to see more of Nyx and her team. Recommended for fans of kickass flawed heroines and grimdark SF&F!