Carrot’s Book Review: Undead and Lost

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That seems a good place to start.

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.

Carrot’s Book Review: WTF Undead Edition

Editor’s note: Am not being paid to review and linky goes to not the Amazonian empire.

So, class. You might remember my love of necromancers, and so I finally got around to Harrow the Ninth, sequel to Gideon the Ninth.

Listening, more like. My brain has been scatter shot of late and I can’t keep my eyes on the printed word for very long, skimming like I was trying to cram before a college final. Audio books are rarely an option for me as I cannot stand most voices. I have finally found myself another audio reader that I can stand (still can count them all on one hand) and settled in for some embroidery and listening. Thank you Moira Quirk.

We shall begin. Ahem.

Whiskey.

Tango.

Foxtrot.

I had so much no-damn-clue what was going on, I checked out the first audio book for a re-listen to help me get fresher base for whatever insane bit of storytelling architecture I was subjecting myself. By the way, Sassomancers get +3 to everything when voiced in snotty English accents. The kids kept interrupting me wanting to know what I was laughing at.

While I had a better understanding of Gideon’s tale of WTF, I still had no idea what was going on with Harrow’s WTF. It didn’t mean the story wasn’t interesting, it just had less Sassomancy than the first book. I’m not even sure how to describe what was going on without giving exceptional spoilers. We do get introduced to the Undying Emperor. Some space travel. Some space bees.

I’m not kidding. Space bees. You know you want to read it now just for that.

Again, there’s some hard science to the necromancy but still no damn explanation on how the Emperor Undying became undying and no damn explanation on why they’re at war or who they’re at war with! There were times I had to stop to consider that maybe this story was being told by the baddies perpetuating a terrible and unjust conflict. It didn’t make any more sense of the tale I was being told.

Harrow’s strange little trip does get some resolution by the end. Most of her crazy little drama is made clear, but in the process of unveiling that madness, it just gives you another crate of WTF and isn’t even shy about the cliff hanger it gives you.

Bastards.

So, just the fact I listened to it on loop to make sure the WTF portion of this novel wasn’t 100% a user error (constant familial interruptions likely contributed) should be factored into the entertainment the book provided based on my Stargate Theory*. The characters were interesting, the mystery compelling, I’m dying to find out the rest of the world and the universe and am still holding out that I will have that itch scratched sooner rather than later. I suppose I need to find out if Ms. Quirk read the rest of them and hope that giving them a listen will make All Thing Clear(tm).

Still no clever undead ratings, so I’ll give it another four outta five stars just for the brain game it played with me.

Carrot’s Stargate Theory: Back when Stargate hit the theater, a knot of us nerds went to see it and debated the merits – or lack thereof – for well into the evening. Someone pointed out that we talked about the movie longer than the movie’s actual run time. It was postulated that any movie that could make you discuss it for that long was de facto a good movie.

Ergo, the fact that a completely incomprehensible book was interesting enough in its confusion to get you to hit repeat for a second ride meant that it was good.

Carrot’s Book Review: Undead Edition

We come here together to talk about Gideon the Ninth, written by Tamsin Nur.

I love Necromancers as a general rule. Most gaming systems (eventually) offer them as a class choice and I love playing them. There’s not a whole lot of variation, sadly, almost as if people really don’t know what to do with Necromancers save “raise the dead” and “summon ghost”. It means that while you get the option of playing one, you’re very limited on what you’re allowed to do. No one wants to make Necromancers more deadly than Tanks for some reason. Like its an offensive threat to the Nerd Gods to up-end some sort of classic and traditional “He-Man Protects Nerdy Weak Magic Class” dynamic. Can’t have freaky Goth Kids saving the Captain of the Football team, right?

But I digress.

The fact that Gideon the Ninth is a book entirely about futuristic space necromancers (bear with me) was a big draw. Not gonna lie. I would not be surprised to find out that the author is a closet Warhammer 40k fan. Or at least has spent a goodly amount of time flipping through lore books. There are nine – count them nine! – noble houses all with their own variation/flavor of necromancy, and they serve/worship their Undying God Emperor who apparently is battling some space war with something never specified.

Its the never-specified that gets me. Were I to go with a traditional Five Star Rating, I’ll have to go with a Four just because while I really liked it, I had no goddamn idea what was going on for the start of the book. It opens cold into this universe with no explanation and you have to scramble to fill the holes as you find them. I don’t mind scrambling if the story is good, its like a treasure hunt and the map unfurls oh-so very slowly.

Oh you terrible tease!

Once you settle in and come to terms that some things will not be explained, like most of the worlds and their cultures, you can focus on the characters, which are a delight. Gideon is a straight up Sassomancer and who doesn’t like some mouthy chick with a sword, amirite? Every house has a necromancer at the lead, and every one of those house scions has a dedicated sword master to serve them. Nice to see the Goth Kids in charge for once, even as there’s still the thug-protecting-the-scholar set up. This story centers around Gideon as the sword master (they call them cavaliers) to the Head of the Ninth House. Personality conflicts ensue.

I can only guess that there will be more explanation of WT Ever Living F (“ever living” ha ha, see what I did there?) is going on with this never ending necromantic war and why everything seems to be multiple millennia old and crumbling around them. Maybe how they got an Undying God Emperor, how you resurrect an entire solar system, and for what purpose? Where are all the regular people?

I guess this is more of my map slowly unfurling. There are four books in this run, the fourth not yet published. I only recently discovered there’s a couple Point(tm) in this series. And by Point I mean this new (and weird trend) to publish books slightly out of order and “to the side”. Example? Having just finished Book #1, I discovered there’s a Book #0.5 (which is NOT in my local library!). Book #1 was published in 2019, book #0.5 published in 2020. I suppose all the explanation I didn’t get in Gideon the Ninth was published in a later game supplement back up novel? There’s also a #2.5 novel which seemed to be published in correct order between #2 and #3. Does that mean I don’t have to read it to make the novel make sense? And if I do have to read it, why isn’t #2.5 just #3? I guess I’ll figure out when I get there.

I would like to know why this is now a thing in writing. It’s a bit aggravating.

But I digress again!

Some of it was way sciencey. I glossed over that a little bit, wanting to get back to the witty sassomancer and her necromancer. It gets a little deep with the science experiments and the alluding to previous studies. Like, the actual scientific theorems of various necromantic abilities. They put a way lot of thought into what Necromancers can/could do if given the ability to really stretch their magic class. A little hard science in your sci-fi-fantasy, I guess. Hey – DMs & STs – read these books and take some damn notes so your Necromancers can do more than just tag along behind the party to question the guy you accidentally killed.

This here book is getting Four Stars because I don’t have a witty rating for it that doesn’t somehow involve Bela Lugosi.

Unexpected Sadz

(scene opens up in bathroom, dressing Delta for the day)

Me: (pulling on sweater) Okay, so we’re going to go see Auntie K today.
Delta: No auntie.
Me: No school today, we need to go to meet up with Auntie K. We’re going to Busia’s house to pick up some things. (takes deep breath to fortify)
Delta: (sadly, carefully) Busia is died.
Me: (stunned) Yes, Delta. Busia died.
Delta: (very still, playing with fingers) Busia died today.
Me: (gently) No, honey, Busia died a few months ago. It will be okay. We’ll go out to lunch with Auntie K.
Delta: (nods decidedly) I like lunch.

The Music Speaks to Them

(scene opens in chaotic mudroom)

Me: Ohmigod, its going to be 50 today (starts stripping Gamma of arctic layers)
Alpha: Maaaam!
Me: (sighs) What?
Alpha: Beta turned the song into a gothic rock song!
Me: What? What song?
Beta: No I didn’t!
Alpha: He did!
Me: (exasperated) Beta, what song?
Beta: (summoning a voice from the gravel pit) Mary had a little Lamb! She cooked it until it was no more!
Me: Oh, that’s not gothic rock. Might be a little more Viking Death Metal. And that’s okay.
Alpha: (disappointed)
Beta: (preens)