Ah I am so emotional right now. A Memory Called Empire is such an exhausting rollercoaster than takes place of the course of just one week. It’s protagonist, Mahit Dzmare is sent on such a wild ride throughout those seven days that as a reader I can’t help but feel tired for her. This book is slow, meandering science fiction at its best with the political intrigue of a detailed fantasy novel.
Star rating: 5 stars
A Memory Called Empire follows Mahit Dzmare as she arrives at the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire as its newest ambassador from the Station Lsel, only to find that her predecessor was murdered. Mahit has a small job really, find out who murdered her predecessor and stop the Teixcalaanli Empire from annexing Lsel, all while navigating the Empire in a time of great political instability in a culture so different from her own. Not the mention the fact that Mahit has to keep Lsel’s memory-based technology a secret from the Teixcalaanli, who are averse to any sort of neurological interferences.
So the politics in this book, even though it only lasts for a one-week period, are absolutely crazy. I had no idea who I could trust, who was a ‘bad’ character, and who was on Mahit’s side. The first character Mahit comes across in the Empire is Three Seagrass, her new cultural liason. I think Three Seagrass is my favourite character in the whole book – there’s just something about her personality that I click with a lot. It took a little while to work out her intentions when it came to Mahit, but once these two women got to know each other I was obsessed with every one of their interactions. Three Seagrass has a kind of sketchy friend called Twelve Azalea – he appears to be her only friend in fact. These three become the central characters and we follow their journey to both help Mahit and navigate the unrest and uncertainty in an Empire that has seen ‘peace’ for 80 years.
The big technological secret from Lsel is the Imago, a device that transplants the memories of a dead person to a new person. Mahit enters the Empire having received a 15 year old Imago from the former ambassador, which is the last update he sent back to Lsel before he died. She was chosen for the ambassador job because of her intelligence combined with her compatibility with the former ambassador’s Imago. I really loved this addition, it was super cool to see their thoughts meld together and see how having this neurological addition affected Mahit’s responses to situations she encountered in the Empire.
Overall, A Memory Called Empire manages to be slow-building and incredibly gripping, with an exceptional last 10 chapters that left me all in all quite devastated. I loved the characters so much, and the ending has me so interested in what will happen next in the sequel, A Desolation Called Peace. I loved the world-building, particularly the use of language and poetry. I love science fiction like this, it really blows me away! I can’t wait to re-read this book and look back on all the things I missed this first time round.