BOOK REVIEW: Rapture by Kameron Hurley

REVIEW SUMMARY: Hurley finishes Nyx’s story, completing the story of the bloody former Bel Dame.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Years after attempting retirement, Nyx is coaxed back into one more job that will take her across Umayma and possibly keep her homeland intact.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: More inventive worldbuilding. Well realized character arcs. Good integration with previous novels.
CONS: A few dangling threads and elements not integrated well; ending may be polarizing for some.
BOTTOM LINE: A winning third “panel” to the Bel Dame Apocrypha.

In the Godfather III, Michael Corleone, attempting to go into a straight and crime free life, and failing, complains memorably: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”.

Nyxnissa so Dasheem, or just Nyx, can sympathize with Corleone’s sentiment. Years after peacefully disappearing (read: self-exile) to an obscure corner of the planet Umayma, Nyx is bribed, cajoled and outright blackmailed into serving as a bounty hunter once again. However, Nyx is unaware that some of her former colleagues and friends have problems of their own that dovetail with Nyx’s search and retrieval mission. And its a mission that could decide the fate of her homeland and allow for that rara avis, peace, to finally take flight.

But its just one more mission. What could go wrong? Plenty!

Rapture is the third and last of the Bel Dame Apocrapyha Trilogy by Kameron Hurley, following the Nebula Award nominated God’s War and Infidel [My SF Signal Review].  In Nyx, we have one of the most unique, clear-voiced protagonists of either gender I’ve read in genre fiction. She’s grown from her opening scene back in God’s War.  She is older, perhaps slower, and still is a poor shot, but when the chips are down, Nyx finds a way to survive.  Returning for this last adventure are of some of her former associates from the previous books, who encounter Nyx in sometimes surprising ways.

The worldbuilding in this book is strong.  Just when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see on the battered, dry, dangerous world that Nyx calls home, the author provides some new surprises, locales and ideas only hinted at in the previous novels. I have a better idea of how, ecologically and technologically, the planet has gotten to be how it is. And there are tantalizing hints about the greater universe, too.

God’s War, Infidel and Rapture are labeled as “the Bel Dame Apocrypha”, a trilogy of books about Nyx and her brutal, harsh world. However, the three books are not a trilogy to my eyes, but rather a triptych. Like that three paneled style of art, we see three windows, three elements of Nyx’s life. All three books are separated by years, and while there are recurring characters and references across them, they really don’t build on top of each other as much as a trilogy should. I think you probably could read the books independently if you really were of a mind to, although the work is richer if you read across the triptych in order.

So what didn’t work so well for me?  The major weakness I found is that there are a few elements introduced into the narrative that aren’t integrated as cleanly or well as they might have been. In a couple of cases, they feel too much like a throwaway, like beats that didn’t need to be there, or needed to have more direct provenance to the narrative and to character motivations.  And the ending – I didn’t have problems with it, but I can see how it might turn off readers, or upset them. I read the last page several times, trying to decide what was the right ending for a character I had followed for three books. This ending seems to me to be a way for the author to definitively walk away from this world. She can’t write a sequel without undoing an ambiguous ending and taking away the power it contains.

So is the series worth it? Absolutely. While God’s War won me over on audaciousness and inventiveness, and Infidel disappointed me in some ways, Rapture shows a clear evolution and development from that sophomore effort, and still keeps her inventiveness, ruthlessness and voice.  With the investment in Nyx and her world complete, I’m very interested in reading and immersing myself into the the next worlds and characters that Hurley creates. The blood, bugs and brutal women of the Bel Dame Apocrypha are done, for me, but await those lucky readers who have not yet picked up God’s War and its sequels.

One thought on “BOOK REVIEW: Rapture by Kameron Hurley”

  1. Thanks for the spoiler at the top of the review. I really appreciate it. Totally.

    It would have been better and less douchey to write something like, “The ending might be polarizing.” Or, hell, put it in the body of the review rather than the short bits at the beginning. You know, the bits that one might catch as one scrolls past the review in hir feed reader.

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