A Clue-style haunted(?) mystery setting mashed with scintillating razor-sharp humor mashed with intricate puzzle-box plotting mashed with post-apocalyptic necromancy mashed with intergalactic space vibes mashed with death/not-death mashed with lesbian drama mashed with--
I could go on, but we’d be here all day. This is an excellent chaotic casserole of brilliant nonsense.
I now completely understand why Gideon the Ninth is marketed the way it is. Let me explain.
This book came out in 2019. It was pitched as "lesbian necromancers in space." I, not particularly liking space and not receiving much else from that limited pitch, took a pass on reading it. "Lesbian necromancers" was interesting... but vague. I didn't have enough to go on to outweigh my dislike of Star Wars-esque space-y stuff involving politics and planets.
Then the reviews started coming out and all of them said a confusing blend of nonsensical ?!?!?!, fandom love for the queer epic-ness, mentions of how messed up and dark and brutal it was, and a general sense of awe and an utter unwillingness to describe what was going on.
I was more intrigued, but not quite enough to pick it up. I had a lot to read, and this was still in my no-no zone of adult hard science fiction (I believed it to be, anyway.)
I waited until 2022 to read it.
Hot diggity dang. What a book. One of those Amy-you-dumbass, shoulda coulda woulda read it earlier type of moments.
Gideon the Ninth is an epic done on the intimate and bonkers foundations of the post-modern cultural moment of the now as opposed to the traditional scale of genre and expectations. Its readership both fits the pitch "lesbian necromancers in space" and yet needs to include other groups of people—myself included—who should ignore that pitch and try this glorious black hole of a book anyway.
I, too, will remain weirdly vague and wax rhapsodic on its attributes over its actual plot because going into this book blind, like a horror-thriller, is really the way to go.
It's a murder mystery. It's a haunted house novel. It's a video game-esque questing story with challenges to defeat. It's puzzles to solve. It's hidden clues on the tale ends of sentences and descriptions leading the reader unknowingly to the inevitable. It's a plot-twist thriller. It's an intimate enemies-to-[something?] with a passionate rivalry/hatred to rouse the interests of the most hardened of the slow burn smut readers—an unbelievable feat considering there is no pay-off in this particular installment. It's a gut punch, a brutal overthrow of your expectations. It's also pop-culture level funny with quips that seriously date it and yet add to the humor and surprise.
I'm honestly shocked at how not-science fiction this novel feels while remaining such a strong science fiction novel.
This is a gothic ballad to the queer emo mixed with the sardonic humor of the Black Death aficionados. I have spent this review making sentences with lofty nonsense pairings for the vibes and to depict the emotional aura of this novel because frankly, I think Tamsyn would approve. (If my review annoys you, pass on this book.)
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.