A Memory Called Empire Rothdas book review RSS
3.5 Stars

"Like a microwaved orchid, this book is sticky and hot" - singer/poet One Direction

So, right away this book has 2 red flags: First it is focused on a sci-fi empire that is based off the Mayans/Aztecs, and second it purports to say important stuff about empires and colonialism. I've been burned by both of these traits on multiple occasions. Oh right, another flag, its plot did not necessarily make a lot of sense/have much meat to it (e.g. one reading of the book is that she is a diplomat, she gets a message from home, she decodes the message with the help of a tech, she transmits the message, fin). Also the book can't seem to make up its mind about what is saying about empires? Also some of the technical/strategic bits didn't entirely hold together.

Despite the flags though, I enjoyed this outing and came away liking the book. This was helped by the book not taking itself too seriously or getting too deep into its technical world building. E.g. there might be a space warship, but how is it powered? what does it fire? how many other ships are with it? the author is completely uninterested in any questions like these. Instead she puts her efforts into colors, clothes, plazas, flowers, food, scents, senses, memories, and people. It works well. I liked basically all of the characters, and I liked the over the top romanticism and sensory descriptions of their world. And because of that affection I could blithely ignore the sentences that were trying to be more serious, most of the poetry, and all of the above mentioned red flags. One sci-fi element that did work well was the imago, a personality recording device that the protagonist's culture uses to record and transmit knowledge down the generations. It's a fun device to bring out the flavor of characters and add a second layer of resonance to much of the story, since the main character's imago is basically investigating their own death, and the main character has an inherited layer of memory and emotion already built up around most of the other characters.