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The Genesis of Misery, by Neon Yang

Review copy provided by the publisher.

First, there is the title: the protagonist’s name is Misery. Misery Nomaki, she/they pronouns, possibly the Ninth Messiah, an orphan from a backwater planet, full of powers that should belong only to the saints–and Misery is definitely not that. So it is not a philosophical treatise about the beginnings of unhappiness, about which I feel we all know a bit too much in 2022.

What it actually is…well, do you like the kind of anime that has a never-fully-explained gonzo fantasy premise but also spacecraft pilot training sequences? Because this is structured exactly like that. The spacecraft are named seraphs and, eventually, archangels, and when the book got to the flight training sequences where the pilots had to mesh with their craft, I felt like the book had really found its genre rhythm. Loads of you absolutely love that kind of thing and don’t run into it much in prose fiction, especially not prose fiction that’s originally in English, so here you are, it is your jam.

The other obvious comparison is to Joan of Arc: are the mysterious voices angels, devils, telepathic contact, what is going on with the religious nature of the voices Misery hears. Will they save their people? Will the Heretics defeat them? Is she…actually more like the Heretics after all? Misery has considered whether they are like their poor voidmad mother, but the Heretics are one step too far…but then why does she seem to be dreaming of one? Space fantasy adventure abounds here.

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