Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan #1), by Arkady Martine (author), Amy Landon (narrator)

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250186430, March 2019; Macmillan Audio, March 2019

First I want to note that I received this book in the Hugo Voters packet, as a PDF, in which the text was too small for me to be able to read comfortably. In self-defense, I took a spare Audible credit and got the audiobook. Because I had to listen rather than read, there are and proper nouns I'm guessing at the spelling of. Because listening rather than reading was not really my choice, well, let's just say there's a limit to how much work I'm prepared to do to find the author's preferred spellings. Accessibility is a thing, people. 

Mahit Dzmare is the Ambassador from Lasalle Station to the Teixcalaan Empire. She's young; it's her first assignment; she's well-prepared academically. However, because the Empire demanded a new ambassador "immediately," she's not as well-prepared as she would otherwise be. There was no time, and there's another problem, related to her predecessor not having been as communnicative as he ought to have been.
She arrives on Teixcalaan, the world-city at the heart of the empire, to find that her predecessor is dead, allegedly of a food allergy. Since he had lived on Teixcalaan for twenty years, this seems unlikely. She's met by Three Seagrass, her cultural liaison from the Information Ministry, who takes her to her official apartment, and, it turns out, will be her guide even in opening doors in her own apartment, decrypting official messages some of which are encrypted in a manner she'll never have the key to, and in doing a number of other things in which, as she's a foreigner, and therefore not recognized by the world-city's AI as a person, she'll apparently always be dependent on her liaison or other Teixcalaani.

It's not long before she has met friends of the previous ambassador (including a high-ranking official named Nineteen Adze), a friend of Three Seagrass (Twelve Azalea), and the cultural liaison of the previous ambassador, back when he was new and young and needed one (Nine Engine? Maybe?), who gets assassinated while they're having lunch together, and Mahit is slightly injured herself.

She's soon deep in Teixcalaani politics, uncovering evidence that the former ambassador may have been intending to trade highly classified Lasalle Station technology to the Emperor, Six Direction.

Mahit loves Lasalle Station. Mahit also loves Teixcalaani culture. And Teixcalaani expansion plans include the sector that Lasalle Station is in--and would utterly obliterate Lasalle culture. Can she thread this needle? Can she save Lasalle Station without betraying it?

This is a fascinating, enjoyable adventure in a complex culture alien to Mahit and unfamiliar to the reader. Thoroughly enjoyable.

As mentioned, I did originally receive this book as part of the Hugo Voters packet. I am reviewing it voluntarily.

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