A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Arkady Martine dazzles in her debut novel, A Memory Called Empire. This is space opera the way it’s meant to be done - and that is really saying something for me. I tend to love space opera with starships and battles and tactical plans. None of that exists in A Memory Called Empire. Or, perhaps it would be better to say that such exists, but the viewpoint we’re given is quite different. If you love your sci-fi thoughtful, cerebral, but fun and with an engaging and excellent main character, this is the sci-fi novel for you.
One of the things I really loved about A Memory Called Empire is the way it deals with culture and identity. As you might expect for a novel with this sort of title, our main character, Mahit, finds herself an ambassador from a small space station to the great Teixcalaan Empire. What’s truly fascinating about this is we get to see Mahit’s perspective as she arrives at the imperial capital and begins her work as an ambassador. But she’s arriving here as someone who loves the culture of the empire and much of what it represents, while at the same time hating the potential that this empire has to gobble up her own home station and all the culture that it represents. This ebb and flow, push and pull between Mahit’s love for both her homeland and the Teixcalaanli is part of what makes this novel shine. But this clash of cultures isn’t the only aspect of the novel that Martine hits out of the park. One of the unique things about Mahit’s culture is their use of a secret technology known as imago-machines. These small machines, embedded in the nervous system, record memories and endocrine responses and then pass these on to the next person in the imago line. The person who receives this imago is combined with it, forming a sort of hybrid personality. It’s not dissimilar to the dax symbiote from Deep Space Nine, but non-organic. However, this allows Martine not only to show us the external push and pull of cultures on Mahit, but also the internal push and pull as she struggles with finding herself and her identity as the inheritor of an imago line. The internal and external factors here create wonderful foils for one another.
I’ve said all of this and haven’t even touched on the world building, which is fantastic. Martine gives us a fascinating culture in the Teixcalaan Empire. From the use of numbers and nouns in names (Nineteen Adze, Six Direction) to the importance of poetry in the world, this feels like a refreshingly unique sci-fi world. There is a beauty to the world building, yet a certain brutality lurks just behind the curtain, never far from the conscious thought of both the characters and the reader. Not only is the world building exceptional, but Martine gives us a fully realized main character that genuinely grows throughout the novel. It wouldn’t be wrong to call this character-driven sci-fi.
If there is anything that didn’t connect with me in this novel, I’d say it’s some of the side characters. While some were interesting and provided certain enigmas, I felt like we only rarely received glimpses into their motivations. Not only did this leave me guessing at certain points about what their motivations were - in a way that took me out of the story - it also made it feel as if a few of the side characters were simply walking through actions in service to the narrative. This is largely made up for on the strengths of the characterization of Mahit and in the end did not significantly impact my enjoyment of the novel.
A Memory Called Empire is sure to become a sci-fi masterpiece that stands alongside Asimov, Herbert, Simmons, and other greats of the genre. This is one you absolutely do not want to miss.
This A Memory Called Empire book review was written by Calvin Park
All reviews for Arkady Martine's Teixcalaan
A Memory Called Empire
Teixcalaan: Book 1
In a war of lies she seeks the truth...Ambassador Mahit Dzmare travels to the Teixcalaanli Empire's interstellar capital, eager to take up her new post. Yet when...
Have you read A Memory Called Empire?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
A Memory Called Empire reader reviews
9/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a reader review for A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine; it really helps other readers find that perfect next read. Kindly enter your name, country and review below and click the 'Submit your review' button to send.
More recommended reading in this genre
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn't expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that's seen better days, offers her everything she co...
Marjorie B Kellogg
Set in the future on a distant world, Lear’s Daughters tackles the issues of global warming, pollution, exploitation of resources, and disastrous climate change. Long...
Iain M Banks
It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself. Lededje Y&...
The burgeoning new economies in near-Earth space are fuelled by a steady stream of comets, steered back home by huge nuclear-powered mining ships like Bella Lind’s Ro...
On the distant planet of Jijo, six exiled races live side by side. Only ancient relics from their home planets, fragments of half-forgotten stories and the crumbling ruins ...
Record of a Spaceborn Few
Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into t...
When Streaker - the first starship designed and crewed by dolphins - discovers a derelict ancient armada with evidence of the first sentient species ever, she sets off a wa...
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into ...
In a world devastated by nuclear war with humanity on the edge of extinction, aliens finally make contact. They rescue those humans they can, keeping most survivors in susp...
Great books also published in 2019
A Brightness Long Ago
Guy Gavriel Kay
International bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay's latest work is set in a world evoking early Renaissance Italy and offers an extraordinary cast of characters whose li...
The Raven Tower
For centuries the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by a god known as the Raven. But in their hour of need, the Raven speaks nothing to its people. It is into this unres...
The 10,000 Doors of January
Alix E Harrow
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut....
The Priory of the Orange Tree
A world divided.A queendom without an heir.An ancient enemy awakens.The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen S...
Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.Meet Dodger, his twin. Numb...
A Little Hatred
War. Politics. Revolution. The Age of Madness has arrived... The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep a...
Beneath the Twisted Trees
Çeda was an elite warrior in service to the kings of Sharakhai. She has been an assassin in dark places. A weapon poised to strike from the shadows. A voice from the...
The Hod King
Thomas Senlin and his crew of outcasts have been separated, and now they must face the dangers of the labyrinthine tower on their own in this third book in the word...
Nona Grey’s story reaches its shattering conclusion in the third instalment of Book of the Ancestor.THEY CAME AGAINST HER AS A CHILD. NOW THEY FACE THE WOMAN....
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: