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The Genesis of Misery
by Neon Yang

Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted September 4, 2022

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I received an e-ARC of this title from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. It will be published in three weeks, September 27. Neon's name made it a must read, but unfortunately I did not like it as much as I had hoped. I admit there are times I may not be as astute a reader as I should be. I may have missed some bit of information early that colored my response to later revelations and exposition. It is set in the far future in a undisclosed region of the galaxy, many years after a generation ship, The Cause of Labour, left a dying Earth. Fifty generations lived and thrived on the ship, until tragedy struck when they entered a certain region of space. It resulted in many deaths from a mysterious plague, which seemed to be overwriting human DNA. The ship's AI, ALISS, decided it best to force the healthy into cryo pods, quarantine the sick and deprive those sectors of life support. ALISS was eventually disabled, but the ship was severely crippled. Eight crew persons exited the ship on one of the shuttles, Misery's Absolution, touching down on an asteroid due to engine problems. Inside a cave on the asteroid they discovered strange carvings on a type of stone unlike any they had seen before. The night following this discovery all eight had similar dreams, of a being of pure light that identified itself as the Demiurge, or alternately the Larex Forge, essentially a god, Zie of Many Names.

The main character in events that occur about 300 years later is Misery Nomaki, their first name derived from that of the shuttle. They live on Rootsdown, a mining moon on the fringe of the Apis duchy, one part of the human empire that had been established once use of the holystones found on that asteroid were perfected. At the point I was trying to understand the properties of the holystones, I thought a better description would have been "Holyshit! What's up with these weird stones?" They weren't all the same, each had different properties, and while they might not be that similar to stones found on Earth, they were called similarly; holyopal, holyjade, holyobsidian, etc. Some of them could be worked and shaped and made part of a technological system, while others had only been found in existing ships or transportation portals. One such portal was found damaged, and parts of it were used for transport pods on planets, moons, or space stations. All of that is weird enough, then we get into the new religion formed around the Larex Forge, or I suppose it could be said to be an acceptance of an already established religion. Six of the crew members of Misery's Absolution became known as the Six Messiahs. Originally there were eight, but two rebelled and formed the rival group the Heretics. Misery's brother was a priest at the church on Rootsdown, and while she tried to play the part of a true believer, she fought against it in her own mind, trying to be independent of it. That is, until an "angel" appeared to her, directing her to infiltrate a military base and start a conflict with a Heretic faction, even though there was technically a truce between the Heretics and the Empire at that time. Misery's mother had died in much the same way as the unfortunate generation ship crew, a malady that became knows as void-sickness. Even before Misery was born her mother had found an amulet on one of her mining missions, and it became Misery's when she was born.

Color me confused on much of the plot, as well as character motivations. Many questions to ponder. Is Misery void-mad herself, or is she touched by the Larex Forge? Are the miraculous things she can do to and with the holystones a result of the amulet, or is she channeling powers from her angel? She knows the angel as "Ruin," but I'm not sure that is a name she gave them or the name it declared itself. Is Misery the next prophesied Messiah, the one destined to defeat the Heretics? Is it possible the Heretics are not the bad guys, but rather ones who know the true nature of the Larex Forge, and wish to eliminate it? I can't answer any of those questions, since this seems to be the beginning of another series, with other revelations yet to come. At this time it is hard for me to feel any enthusiasm for a sequel.


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Neon Yang

September 27, 2022

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