Kameron Hurley’s God’s War (2011) is a little different than my usual thing, a gritty, violent science fantasy set on the planet Umayma, where a centuries-long religious war has raged between the neighboring nations of Nasheen and Chenja. The story follows Nyx, a tough-as-nails bounty hunter with a history for tracking and killing soldiers who have gone AWOL from the front, and Rhys, a Chenjan defector with a magician’s talent for manipulating the bugs central to the world’s organic tech. When Nyx takes on a contract to track down an alien who may be the key to ending the war, she puts herself and her team — including Rhys — in the crosshairs of forces determined to prevent her from collecting her bounty.
I liked God’s War, particularly for its confident voice and its detailed, vivid world-building. Hurley has a firm command of the language of her world, a dusty, inhospitable place with a Middle Eastern feel, filled with rogues, shapeshifters, and religious extremists. It serves as a great backdrop for reflections on war, religion, gender, and sexuality, which Hurley explores with abandon. Unfortunately, I wasn’t terribly enamored of Nyx, the antihero who may have been a bit too much anti and not enough hero, for my tastes. And I occasionally lost sight of the big picture, for all the flashy details; on a pure storytelling level, it didn’t always sing to me. But for all that it’s a promising debut, striking and inventive action-adventure SF.