The dead soldiers, Ada Hoffman (Angry Robot 978-0-857-66868-4, $ 14.99, 400 pages per person) July 2021.
I should confess that I don’t remember the details of Ada Hoffmann’s debut The outsideexcept that I enjoyed it and wanted to read the sequel. I read it before that endless year of our pandemic, after all, and so many other things have filled my skull since then. Well that The dead soldiers, its sequel, is here, luckily I don’t really have to remember that much: Hoffmann did a great job The dead soldiers easy – um – to decay, even if you’ve just kept “cosmic horror,” “AI gods with no conscience,” and “attempted anti-god revolution.”
Productivity “Tiv” Hunt has somehow become the nominal leader of a resistance movement. She is a problem solver and coordinator, but the area of the planet affected by “outside” forces, the chaos zone where the rules have changed, is essentially militarily occupied by the “angels” who enforce the law the gods. The angels will contain the chaos zone and eventually create a reason to wipe it out and its inhabitants. Tiv and her team are helping residents as best they can, delivering messages and helping with supplies redistribution, but Tiv’s commitment to nonviolent resistance is weighed down by the desperation of the people she is trying to help.
Tiv is the only member of her team – a group of seven former students of the renegade Dr. Evianna Talirr – without magical, externally related powers. They are all neurodivergent from the start and have been damaged by long isolation or torture by angels. Tiv’s mistress Yasira is the most powerful, but her efforts in the end The outside resulted in her developing multiple personalities all of which pulled her in different directions and made it difficult to decide what to do.
One strand of The dead soldiers is about Tiv and her people. Another is about the fallen angel Elu and his longstanding crush on his former boss, vengeful Akavi. Elu saved both himself and Akavi from the angels’ punishment and now they are outlaws. Akavi wants revenge on Tiv and Yasira. Elu … wants Akavi to like him too. Akavi is not built that way.
The dead soldiers is a novel that deals with the essence of resistance to hegemony, community, connections between people. She asks questions about the necessity of violence to resist violence, about power problems, about truth and lies, history and propaganda. It combines a thriller or three with a deep interest in community, compassion, and mutual help. It examines neurodivergence and disability from a perspective that sees them as essential parts of the human experience, rather than issues to be fixed: a welcome and refreshing approach.
I find it difficult to discuss what in detail The dead soldiers power. It feels like a middle book, the center of a trilogy in which the protagonists build on the previous one and prepare for a final showdown: triumph is followed by reversal. (The dead soldiers does not indicate in its copy or in its marketing that it is a middle book of a trilogy, but I’m almost certain it is.) It moves, but its plot is largely personal and focuses on that Inner life of the characters. It’s convincing, but the scale is smaller than I expected.
I enjoyed it very much, mind you. Take part in the next sequel!
These and similar reviews in the July 2021 issue of Locus.
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