So, thing is: my partner and I have spent countless hours discussing and (yup) worshipping Yoon Ha Lee‘s amazing The Machineries of Empire series this past winter. Here are just a few of the reasons I think probably everybody over the age of 16 (especially in the sci-fi ranks) should read the series. Now. Before it’s too late and it’s become even more awesome!
#1 Organic space.
Even though my first geeky love were non-entity like, mechanic, beautifully oversized and overly menacing spaceships (also, lightflyers you can race through canyons in with your cousin), I’ve been reading “organic” SF ever since I was a child. (And then there was Moya.) I sincerely find it refreshing, every now and then, to read a universe which isn’t built, but born.
#2 This comic by oldbolo.
You might’ve have heard of Ann Leckie and her wonderful approach in writing “she” as the baseline pronoun (even though I didn’t manage to get through her prose). Ever tried reading something where “queer” is the default sexuality? *widest grin* (Oh, and don’t even get me started on the author’s flexibility in nuclear family numbers in the later books. <3)
#3 Sheer cosplay value.
Yeah, I’m wearing black next week at Sferakon. And ruffles. And no – I won’t be cosplaying a vampire. Just a tyrant.
#4 Book three’s baby character.
I cannot even say their name – spoilers, lol – but they’re one of the major reasons both my partner and I have loved the book that much. It still hurts – how could it not? – and it’s still incredible.
#5 The side characters.
All of them. I’m not even sure who to start with. The issue with this trilogy’s scope is that many of the great characters will inevitably get sidelined eventually to make space for new characters and their new plots, but the best of the best still stay with us. I was so greatful, as a reader, to have so many to spend some quality time with. (Oh, and cats.)
#6 The heavy stuff.
Yoon Ha Lee writes, after all, about freedom and the many painful things one sometimes has to do to achieve it – not just for themselves, but for their loved ones, maybe even their whole civilization, too. Writing and thinking about The Machineries of Empire, in retrospect, got me thinking about one of my all-time favourite SF series – the Hyperion Cantos. There are many differences – after all, I’d say TMoE is written a bit better (i.e. more to my taste), which makes is a lot more readable – but both of them focus, at least to me, on the same thing: the freedom of choice. Hyperion(Endymion)’s final message reads (to me) as “make another choice, choose again, make up your mind if you want to – you’re free to do so.” (I’ve only ever read and re-read and loved it in Croatian, so I’ll forgo the quotes – but I’m paraphrasing Aenea.) TMoE’s main focus is a bit heavier (and spoilerish!), but it could be surmised as “choose for yourself, even when the choice is hard, even when others have made the (wrong) choice for you.” As a writer, nowadays, I find it irresistible to see how another writer has used several books to make their message known. Not all of Yoon Ha Lee’s writing is “messageful” – but I love the impact he’s had, for me, as a reader, with his messages.
All of these, combined, might not amount to much – but they are just a few of the many reasons I’ve stuck with three books about, let’s face it, mathematics – over almost two years. And I cannot get over the fact that a writer has written an epic, hard, military space opera where it’s a regular thing – for almost everybody in the literal universe – to just. not. be. straight. Phew.
Oh, and yeah – have I mentioned he writes military SF? I do hope we have many great years in front of us, reading-wise.