(scene opens in quiet Christmas dinning room, Carrot at table, opening some forgotten mail)
Me: (opens letter, reads frowns)
(Beta enters from kitchen)
Me: Beta? Are you familiar with the concept of the ‘Parent’s Curse’?
Beta: Is that where they swear at you really loud?
Me: No. Its when a kid’s parent looks at them dead in the eye and says “I hope you have one just like you.” so the kid will one day experience the hell you’re putting them through.
(Carrot passes letter over)
Beta: (reads aloud) Based on test scores, we recommend you take the following classes next year…. (looks up) AP English Literature?
Me: AP. Advanced placement. Based on your scores, you apparently rate for college classes.
Beta: But isn’t English the class I’m getting a D in?
Me: (throws up hands) AND THE CURSE HAS BEEN FULFILLED!
Beta: You got Ds in English?
Me: Math. I did pretty good in English, but was never invited to the AP club. My grades and scores were so mismatched that I was accused of cheating on my SATs. I’m a designated “Does Not Live up to Potential”.
Hello fellow book nerds. Carrot here to review Nona the Ninth, yet another installment of those loveable yet incomprehensible space necromancer. Again, not paid to review and linky goes to not the Amazonian Empire.
Gee, what to say about Nona?
Allow me to hasten to reassure you, oh less-than-gentle readers, it was good. I’m invested in the character, even though I wasn’t entirely sure who was who, and what was what, even though some of the names were familiar. Maybe it would have all be way more clear who was who if I had been listening to it rather than read it (go me, read a whole grown up book!) and I could take cues on just the voices of the reader. Some of the characters not only were playing a new role in this novel, but I think were also going by code names. Like maybe Coronabeth was going by Crown this time around? For reasons, I’m sure, but for reasons I’ve not exactly figured out.
Okay, so, there’s still an epic war and there’s still hard science in some of the necromantic excitement. It does detail – in a somewhat round about flash-backy kind of way – how the Emperor Undying and his necromantic legion even came into existence. I feel like a second read might help me understand better, but the part I did grok was kind of depressing. Let’s just say that some of the motivation in become necromancers are currently in play with our current eco/political/environmental conundrums. That bit of existential gloom has a back-up dancer in the form of the characters in ‘current day’ on a world under siege by something and in a civil war on the ground and people being shot in the streets or rounded up by gov’ment types. Or maybe freedom fighter types. I’m not really sure where the line was or even who the good guys were. Are we cheering for Blood of Eden or are we cheering for the Nine Houses? What even is the Blood of Eden and why the hell are they called Blood of Eden?
I won’t lie, book nerds, if you told me that I had gone to Burning Man and hallucinated the whole thing after too long in the desert, I’d totally believe you. Nona the Ninth is one big fever dream and I fully expected to get to the end and have the whole “then they woke up” explanation chapter. Nope. Prepare your shocked faces, I don’t feel like the ending was an ending all, just another “Same bat time, same bat channel!” where you turn the last page and wonder if you’re going to spend eternity just trying to get your brain on straight.
But. It. Is. So. God. Damn. Compelling.
There is no clear or easy answer on why that is. I cannot tell you what kept me reading or what brought me back after the fever dream that was Harrow the Ninth. It seems that I am committed to this necromantic cause and to follow the Emperor Undying. Also, I am determined to find out what is in the Locked Tomb, of which teases you along. All answers reside there, it seems, both for the Nine Houses and for those of us caught in their wake and and confused as hell.
I can only attribute it to the well crafted characters and the compelling world in which they reside. If you made it as far as Harrow, just jump right into Nona. There is no going back for us, there is only forward.
(scene opens in Christmas mall, Carrot wandering between Alpha and Gamma)
Me: This was the mall that I used to hang out at as a kid.
(Alpha and Gamma side eye Carrot)
Me: When I was your age (pokes Alpha) our parents would drop us off at a particular door, tells us to be back there at a certain hour, and just leave us here with our friends to wander, hang out, and shop. It was like teenage day care.
Gamma: (excitedly) Did you ever buy anything?
Me: (snorts) With what money? No, it was mostly hanging out. At Christmas, before internet, you’d make lists of things you wanted and shared them with the family. Then the whole family would go to the mall, you’d get your list, and then separate to go buy things for everyone.
Alpha: (confused) Why don’t we do that?
Me: What kid had enough money to buy everyone presents? Presents that were “good enough”? It used to make your Auntie K and I so anxious with the pressure of getting the “right thing”. I never wanted that for you, that expectation that you have to buy people gifts just because. So I never pressed you guys to buy gifts for one another. I want you guys to grow up giving gifts because you like the person and want to do something nice. Something special. The holidays are stressful enough as is. And you kinda need a source of income before you can do that anyway.
Gamma: Can we hang out at the mall anyway? (shock and awe) Did you see the food court?!
Alpha: (skeptical) What’s fun about hanging out at a shopping place?
(scene opens in harried dinning room, Carrot combing the hair of a suffering Delta)
Gamma: Mom, did you know there are people who think the earth is flat?
Me: (just not having it this morning) Yes. They’re stupid. There are some people in this world who – no matter the unarguable truth you put before them – will only believe what they want to believe. Although its possible some don’t, they just like picking fights and watching people get upset. They’re stupid too. Avoid them.
Delta: But mountains! The earth isn’t flat because mountains.
Me: Wrong kind of flat. It’s bumpy, but they think the earth isn’t shaped like a ball, but like a frisbee.
Gamma: Why do they think that?
Me: (aggravated, puts hands to head) People who believe conspiracy theories do so because its an issue of control. Or power. You can’t tell them what to do. You aren’t the boss of them. If you told them the sun set in the west, they’d argue it sets in the north just because they want to be right. Not correct. But right. Being right and being correct are two different things, and they’re so convinced of their super smarty better-than-you selves, that they cling to conspiracy lies just so they can lord it over people that “Ha ha, I know the truth and you don’t!” and give themselves a sense of self-worth.
Gamma: There’s a kid in my class who says the earth is flat.
Me: Don’t be friends with those kinds of people. Its just not worth it.
Gamm: Wait, there are other people like that?!
Me: Damn, girl, they’re everywhere. And they’re not worth your time.
(scene opens in early morning dinning room, several bouquets of multi colored roses on the table)
Me: (reading email, drinking coffee)
Beta: (sees card, picks it up to read it, item drops out) Mom? What’s this?
Me: Your father gave that to me. We’ve been married twenty years today. That’s my golden watch.
Beta: (with relief) Oh good. I was hoping dad got this for you and wasn’t some toy of Delta’s laying around. You know that there’s no way he bought this by itself, right? That this was probably some Paw Patrol set and there’s a bunch of other Paw Patrol stuff just laying around the house somewhere.
Me: Going the extra mile for the joke is why I like your dad so much.
Beta: It kinda makes sense he’d give you a gold watch. I mean, you’re kinda retired. You don’t work.
Me: (mildly) I don’t work?
Beta: (recovering) You don’t work for money. Dad works for money and you kinda hang out here with him.
Me: (obviously laying a trap) Oh. I just hang out here and let dad do all the work.
Beta: (sweating) No! That’s not –
(footsteps off screen announces the arrival of Husband)
Husband: (blinking in the bright light of the dinning room) What are you doing up so early?
Me: (gets up, kisses husband) I was going to sneak out and get you a card, but I forgot that pandemic means nothing opens before 6 am any more. Beta loves the gold watch you got me. Said it made sense since I don’t work.
Husband: (gives Beta “you done messed up” look)
Beta: (dramatically flails arms)
Me: (sitting, picks up coffee) Also told me that you work, and I just kinda hang out.
Husband: (dramatically alarmed, looks at Beta) Run.
(Husband flees off stage, not pursued by a bear)
Beta: (mean mugs Carrot) That’s not what I meant! I know you work hard!
Me: Extra mile for the joke, honey. Have a good day at school.
(scene opens in long open cabin room, tween pre-bed chaos in full swing)
Me: (paces to center of the room, orates loudly) Okay campers! I did not get any sleep last night and I am highly resentful of that fact! Tonight, at lights out, we will not have yelling! We will not have running around and shaking the entire cabin! There will be no crying, no fighting, and there will be quiet! Am I understood?