Review: Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh
While we live, the enemy shall fear us.
All her life Kyr has trained for the day she can avenge the murder of planet Earth. Raised in the bowels of Gaea Station alongside the last scraps of humanity, she readies herself to face the Wisdom, the all-powerful, reality-shaping weapon that gave the Majoda their victory over humanity.
They are what’s left. They are what must survive. Kyr is one of the best warriors of her generation, the sword of a dead planet. But when Command assigns her brother to certain death and relegates her to the nursery to bear sons until she dies trying, she knows she must take humanity’s revenge into her own hands.
Alongside her brother’s brilliant but seditious friend and a lonely, captive alien, she escapes from everything she’s ever known into a universe far more complicated than she was taught and far more wondrous than she could have imagined.
A thrillingly told queer space opera about the wreckage of war, the family you find, and who you must become when every choice is stripped from you, “Some Desperate Glory” is award-winning author Emily Tesh’s highly anticipated debut novel.
SPOILERS There are spoilers for the book in the review.
Dear Emily Tesh,
This was an impulse purchase for me. I saw John Scalzi recommending it on Twitter and I went something like this in my head – “Queer space opera! Want now.”
After I finished this, what I am telling myself in my head – “Maybe not so fast next time.” The blurb summarizes the plot pretty well. What we know initially about this world is that Earth was destroyed as a result of the war with aliens and the only survivors of that war are a couple of thousand people on Gaya station with its leader Admiral Jole, and our main character Kir is one of the best soldiers on the station.
As we start to look a little deeper at the Gaya station (really, you don’t need to look very deep, just a glance is enough), you see that something is very, very wrong. Because you see, it is mostly kids, starting with five- or six-year-olds, who are being trained for war and how does Gaya station produce new members of humanity? By assigning some of the eighteen-year-olds cadets to “Nursery” where they are supposed to give birth to “Earth children” who can become Earth soldiers, once every two years till they are dead. I did not get an impression that any of the women of the nursery could refuse any officers or soldiers who will visit them. So if you will decide that Nursery is where mass rape takes place on a pretty regular basis, you will be correct.
Nursery though is only one of the things that are deeply wrong with Gaya station and its command and to get into this will be revealing more spoilers so I will refrain from that.
Our main heroine Kyr lives and breathes preparation for war and she wants to make a good impression on Admiral Jole, whom she calls her uncle. She is a war machine at the beginning of the story, you can say, and she is abrasive with her fellow cadets. Relationships don’t interest her much. She is basically very brainwashed in her head and why won’t she be? She grew up at Gaya station. She did love her brother but that’s the only human like behavior I noted in her in the beginning.
The events that pulled a rug out from under Kyr’s everyday routine do start with her brother’s disappearance from Gaya station and it forces Kyr to leave the station too, trying to find him and she takes some um companions with her. Both of those companions are very important to the plot, especially Alien, so once again I should be keeping quiet.
I have read the reviews before I started mine. I could not NOT do so, as many issues as I was having with this book despite it is being a fast-moving adventure, that I needed to see if at least some other readers were having similar problems, so I guess apologies if my thoughts will sound similar to somebody else’s – it is not intentional.
First of all Kyr was giving such a whiplash as a character. I for once was not troubled at all by her not being very likable in the beginning and I guess maybe for some time into the story. Gaya station is a bad place to grow up and she did not have any good role models for several years. It *made sense* to me for her to be unlikeable. But when the events start to unfold, it is as if Kyr suddenly became awesome. Why? I guess the good genes of her real parent kicked in? I am being sarcastic here, I know who her parent was, but her parent did not have much time with her. For example, at some point in time one of her compatriots engages in a little torture of the prisoner (again, I know there is no “little” when it comes to torture). Why does Kyr immediately feel bad if that being is someone she was told all her life to hate? The bigger examples are once again even more spoilerish, so I will refrain. Does she require a redemption arc or she does not require a redemption arc and if she does then why did the redemption arc felt so easy?
Also, I feel like the book wanted to be Young Adult and changed its mind along the way, but did not acquire a complexity in characterization and plot as it decided to be not young adult and no, I am not saying that YA book cannot be complex, it absolutely can, I just cannot explain it any better.
This book has at the center (in addition to the war of course) some horrible things done to kids and of course the villain justifies it by higher ends of winning the war. If anything, it reminded me of the Ender series (no, it is not the same story, but it gave me similar a feel). It tackles some heavy heavy subjects as many reviews said, but I feel like it was painted with a very broad brush so to speak. Take the main villain, he is a HORRIBLE person and not just HORRIBLE, but VERY HORRIBLE on so many levels.
Obviously, the villain is the villain, but considering the fact that a very real war with billions of people dead was part of his alleged motives for doing all the horrors that he did, maybe a less cartoonish characterization could have been used?
Also, we have a young man in love with another young man as part of the plot (not the main part of the plot and as much as I love m/m romance I did not expect it to be in the book at all, this storyline, so I am not upset that it was not a romance), but this story was just so very depressing to me, so hopeless and thinking, my god, one boy surely deserves better.
I also was so disappointed that the main character was not dead at the end. And I love happy endings and if not happy, then at least hopeful and I hate the main character dying usually. I did not hate Kyr, please do not get me wrong, but the way she survived just felt so silly, so tacked on.
I am just disappointed. C/C-