A Memory Called Empire

Paperback, 400 pages

English language

Published July 30, 2020 by Pan Macmillan.

ISBN:
978-1-5290-0159-4
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4 stars (172 reviews)

Won the 2020 Hugo for Best Novel. Ambassador Mahit Dzmare is posted far from her mining station home, to the Empire's glorious capital. Yet when she arrives, she discovers her predecessor was murdered. But no-one will admit his death wasn't accidental - and she might be next. Mahit must navigate the capital's deadly halls of power, while hunting the killer. She must also somehow stop the Empire from annexing her fiercely independent colony. As she sinks deeper into this seductive yet unfamiliar culture, Mahit engages in intrigues of her own. For she's hiding an extraordinary technological secret, one which might destroy her station and its way of life.Or it might save them all from annihilation.

3 editions

A galactic-spanning empire, where the people are more important than the galaxy-spanning. Superb, personal, space opera.

5 stars

Blurbed by Ann Leckie and reminiscent of her. A brilliantly written story with an rich cast of very human characters, in the throes of a series of events that are at once in human and also very banal – superbly demonstrates how the shifting of empires is something that happens at a very human scale, not by demigods or titans, but by people.

An example of space opera in the vein of Leckie, and Dune. That was one aspect of it that I could have done with a little more of, though that's probably a mood and taste thing. The world building is done well, and weaves the epic and prosaic, the exotic and banal, deftly, and with grace. There's plenty around the edges to make you feel that things extend much further than shown.

Super spannendes Worldbuilding

4 stars

… wirklich schön anzusehen. Die Unterschiede auch in der Betrachtung der Welt, zwischen denen, die auf einer Weltraumstation aufgewachsen sind und denen, die auf DEM Planeten aufwuchsen. Gute Charakterisierungen, tolles Namenssystem, das mir das Merken von Namen sehr erleichtert. Alle auf dem Planeten heißen $Zahl $Substantiv also bspw „Neunzehn Breitaxt“, „Sechs Vektor“, „Drei Seegras“. Die Zahlen haben manchmal auch Verbindungen zum Charakter oder Job der jeweiligen Personen — so viel einfacher zu merken für mich als irgendwelche random Fantasynamen wie „Ft‘anr Lobdart“ oder sowas. Ich mochte auch die Poesie-Obsession der Planetenbewohnenden, die ihre ganze Kultur formt. Hier hatte ich allerdings desöfteren das Gefühl, dass die Übersetzung ihr nicht gerecht wurde. Auch wunderte es mich sehr, dass die Menschen in dem Buch alle Männer oder Frauen waren und sehr sehr viel generisches Maskulinum genutzt wurde. Daher werde ich den 2. Band auf Englisch lesen zum Vergleich. An sich ist das 1. …

Good times

5 stars

This book does sci-fi in the way I like best. It focuses mostly on sociological/political speculation, addresses contemporary societal issues in a thoughtful and critical way, and doesn't try to explain everything to the reader or get too tied up with details. Plus it's an exciting romp with likeable characters.

Empire and poetry

4 stars

This was a very unique and original story. The author did some really cool things with language that I really appreciated.

I love books that are critical of empire, and this book certainly falls into that camp.

I think perhaps the reason I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 5 is because I'm an empathic reader and tend to absorb the mindset of the main characters of the book...Mahit (aka the main character in this book) spends a significant majority of this book feeling stranded, confused, and totally in the dark about what's actually going on. I think that was reflected also in my experience of the book. Perhaps that should be counted as a positive for the book rather than a negative, but...

A great mix of space opera and court intrigue, with an upbeat tone

No rating

A Memory Called Empire might be my favourite  book this year (so far). It took me a while to settle in to the naming conventions, and (as usual) I didn’t envisage the setting too clearly, but overall a great read.

Highlights included the undercurrents of political and diplomatic intrigue, and that uncertainty about whether anyone was genuinely trustworthy. (Or rather, which actors’ motivations happened to align with the main character’s, and which were maybe a bluff…) I enjoyed Mahit’s ongoing sense of being an outsider/other, how she used that role, and the challenges to her loyalties when she didn’t know what was going on.

There’s peril and injury and death, but the tone was generally upbeat. Perhaps that’s not terribly realistic, but since I’m not a fan of grim and gritty, it suited me just fine.

Highly recommended.

Politics as war by other means

4 stars

What do you do when your homeland is in the path of an expanding empire, hungry to consume it and draw it into its embrace? That's the central question to this, and it tells a fascinating story of Mahit Dzamare, sent to the imperial capital as an ambassador to try to protect her home, but also to find out what happened to her predecessor. There's a lot of palace intrigue that she has to figure out, but also a wider set of political processes going on outside the confines of the court, and it's good to see a recognition of those political structures and movements in a book like this. Sometimes feels like there's too much going on - I haven't even touched on the Mahit's internal story, as she deals with an outdated copy of her predecessors mind within her own - but it all comes together in a …

Review of 'A Memory Called Empire' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

On of the best sci-fi novels I've read in some time. Accomplishes the stellar feat of making a story which takes part almost entirely within a single city feel like it has galaxy spanning consequences. Reads as much like medieval court intrigue as it does full on space opera, and is all the better for it.

The last big space opera I read was Saga of the Seven Suns, and while that is a huge story full of fantastic imagination, I enjoyed the writing style of this novel so much more.

Can't wait to read the followup, and hopefully many more to come. Bravo.

Review of 'A Memory Called Empire' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

I don’t often give 5 star reviews, but I just can’t make myself give fewer. I fell in love with the characters, the universe. The book was engaging for the get go, but not too fast paced, just interesting. Great politics, looking forward to reading the next book and wishing the whole series was published already.

The slow-burning love-child of House of Cards and The Expanse

4 stars

If I'm honest I first picked up this book because of the image on the cover but once I picked up the book I remained interested and the aesthetic remained pretty cool throughout and gave me vibes from the "Coup" and "The Resistance" board games.

The book really focuses in a lot on the political manoeuvrers of the central character Mahit and her allies (and enemies). There's a fair amount of political theatre and description of Mahit's internal monologue which reminded me of House of Cards. The world building meant that the plot does take a little while to really get going but once it does get going, there's a fair amount to be excited about. The last few chapters were pretty gripping and more reminiscent of something like The Expanse.

There is a lot of description of the culture and language used in the Teixcalaanli Empire which for me, …

Politics and spaceships

4 stars

What if, the Federation wasn't this big happy family and the humans weren't in charge but were only some minor part of some larger alien empire?

I enjoyed this book, it has a lot of politics; if you found the scenes in The Expanse around the earth parliament annoying, this book is not for you.

It also explains in an entertaining way how tricky being a Galatic Empire is, even (or perhaps because) you have the ships with the Big Guns.

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  • American literature

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