SF/F Review - Nona The Ninth
Nona the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir
Synopsis: 1/2 slice-of-life of a 12-year old on a world about to blow up, 1/2 crackfic action/romance/theology anime.
Book Review: The first half of this is Nona living a relatively normal life for a week on a colonized planet. Tech level is very near-future, the entire world is gonna blow up soon and everyone knows it, and the city is basically a warzone. It feels very much like a slice-of-life story that could be written right now in Kiev.
As a slice-of-life, its appeal lays 100% on how much you want to see these characters struggling with life challenges. As someone who loves Tamsyn’s style, instantly fell in love with Gideon, and just as instantly fell in love with this Nona, I was completely here for it. I could have read this every day for years. I loved the gang, I loved their hijinks, I loved Nona and her follies. It was like the Cyberpunk Anne of Green Gables that I never knew I always wanted.
OMG, that’s why she has those braids, isn’t it?? (I also love Anne of Green Gables so much. I coulda watched that every day for years as well.) And yes, technically 19, whatever, she acts 12ish due to the amnesia.
Several members of our book club did NOT want a slice-of-life Cyberpunk Anne of Green Gables, they wanted more Necromancer vs God action, so they were very peeved at the first half of this book. I dunno what to say about that… it’s totally a valid feeling. But like, this is the timeline we got, and some of us are danged happy we’re in this one.
The second half is hard to describe. You know the cracked-out parts of 90s anime, where characters have deep pseudo-religious rhapsodies on evolution, pan-psychism, the nature of consciousness, the irrevocable isolation of being a single mind trapped in a physical body, or a million other techno/philosophical musings while the world smashes in and out of reality, or their bodies bloat and unravel, stuff is exploding everywhere, gravity goes sideways, all the combat happens in slow-motion and epic orchestral music is thundering? That’s a lot of it.
Which is to say, it’s not there to make complete literal sense. It’s there to be poetry. It’s there to raise you above the mundanity of existence and bring into physical reality the insanity of unending love, obsessive desire, and the terror of losing your soul’s mate to the void of oblivion.
It does this so very, very well.
This book, and this series by extension, is one of the most romantic things I’ve ever read. The romantic sheen on every aspect of existence is palpable. I said way back in Gideon The Ninth that it was among the most goth things I’ve ever read, and the romance at the core of goth is what drives this series. The pairing of desire and inevitable loss, the push/pull of knowing that the deeper something is loved now the more pain it will tear from you later, the tragedy of temporal existence - it screams from every page in the final chapters.
This isn’t a narrative to be taken literally. It’s an epic poem to be lost within, that is delivered through the vehicle of a narrative. Enjoy the feelings, and the beauty.
(also, this series finally solidified in my mind the connection between horniness and joy and romance. There is no such thing as romance without horniness preceding it, and thus horniness should be celebrated like it is in Gideon the Ninth.)
((double also, the backstory to God is the best romantic tragedy ever and filled me with happy-sads))
Very Highly Recommended
Book Club Review: Yup, whole lot to talk about here. There’s a fair bit that people can disagree about too. It’s a lot like the crackfic animes in that way—everyone can read their own personal interpretation into things, to slant them to their own poetic view of reality and/or the text. That’s half the point! Not everyone loved it. A few people downright disliked it. But it’ll definitely spark conversation! Recommended.
Nona the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir on Amazon, sponsor link