Review: Apocalypse Nyx
Strange is good; in fact, strange is what makes Fantasy and Science-Fiction so wonderfully memorable. Neither genre need always be grounded in absolute realism; but, as Fantasy and Science Fiction fans expect, worlds must adhere to their own internal logic.
In an alternate future, far from Earth, there is a planet. It is a planet where eternal war rages. Its rationale? Forgotten. Its objectives? Pointless. It is on this world, where Islamic-influenced matriarchal societies dominate the planet, we encounter a particular soul.
She is a bel dame, she is a killer, and she has the heart of a venomous eel. Her name is Nyx, once a government assassin, now a rundown mercenary, a black dog.
And so begins APOCALYPSE NYX, a series of interconnected novellas surrounding Nyx, her team, and several contracts of… well, non-importance.
The novel is not a standalone case, since it focuses on different contracts Nyx and her team take on. At its heart, the novel is an action-oriented character study of Nyx. Fan favorites like traditionalist, mediocre sorcerer, Rhys, appear. Along with several others, including supporting characters from the Bel Dame trilogy, the novellas feature an assortment of back-alley chop-shop surgeons, shady noblewomen with dubious jobs, and a mixture of cynical soldiers, rival bounty-hunters, and others.
The thing I like about Kameron Hurley’s works is she’s developed a consistent motif: all her works feature strange blends of insects, plants, and general squeamishness. For some people, the constant mention of bugs, fluids, and nastiness may turn them off, but it’s a fascinating one that permeates throughout her stories.
At the heart of APOCALYPSE NYX, the novel focuses mostly on Nyx’s, and at times Rhys’, perspective on her job as a mercenary, her relations with her team, and the general drudgery of mercenary work. There’s no world-saving contract from a planetary queen here. Instead we get collecting dead drops, body-bagging corpses, taking heads for the local mercenary guild, settling a debt from an old comrade–it’s a low-key story.
For fans of the trilogy, it’s a welcome return to form. For those looking for an off-kilter, New Weird Science-Fiction story, you won’t find a better place to pick up the Bel Dame universe.
There are certain elements, characters, and events that are alluded to which might throw off first-time readers. However, you really do not need to read the previous novels to enjoy this one.
On the other hand, the novel doesn’t bring much to the overall series or characters. Given its focus on Nyx’s view of the world, her job, and her expendable team members, there’s not a lot of growth from her or the others. Rhys continues to debate whether to leave the team for better prospects or stay around. Nyx continues to reject any change, positive or negative. The supporting characters are, at best, satellites who do cool things (Anneke is always fun!) but exist as plot devices for each contract.
In addition, each antagonist varies between interesting to Bond villain disposable. The individual contracts/novellas are a mixture of character focus on Nyx or Rhys and action sequences that will satisfy thriller junkies. But there’s not much more to the novel than that.
As always, Hurley’s worldbuilding is bonkers fun. The display of futuristic Islamic off-shoots, forever wars, giant bug cars, and titan-sized space cats brings a welcome dose of bizarre and intriguing to the Bel Dame universe. Most of the magic, which is really psionics or some form of advanced nanotech, focuses on the manipulation of bugs, big and small, with all sorts of wings and shapes. My favorite is the insect flesh-eating shotgun. Essentially a buckshot bee gun, it could have been silly in another series, but Hurley’s vicious description of it and the pain the character experiences shows its deadliness.
Altogether, APOCALYPSE NYX is a fun novel. Gritty, dirty, but packed with action sequences and character asides, it’ll make for a great read with its brisk prose and strange world. Give it go, you won’t regret it.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: This one might need an f-bomb counter. A variety of curses and slurs as well.
- Violence: Copious and gruesome.
- Sex: Several scenes, but mostly a line or two at most.