Earlier this month, the Tor/Forge blog posted an excerpt from their upcoming release, A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE by Arkady Martine. The space opera tells the tale of Mahit, an ambassador from a small mining station who arrives at the heart of the Teixcalaani Empire and is thrust into a world of murder, politics and intrigue. This debut novel will release March 26th, 2019.
Full Disclosure: I have an ARC of this book in my possession that I picked up at SDCC, though I have not yet had a chance to read!
This excerpt starts out with a bang – quite literally in fact, as it seems a bomb has detonated at some sort of diplomatic event. It’s definitely attention grabbing, and even in the chaos and carnage of the aftermath, these pages hint at some of the world-building at play in the larger novel.
I always love being introduced to the customs of other cultures, be they from our Earth or the fantastical imaginings of an author. This brief excerpt provides glimpses of several facets of the cultures of both the Teixcalaani Empire and the Station our protagonist hails from, including naming conventions (there’s a Three Seagrass and a Fifteen Engine – perhaps their place in the generational line?) and the tid-bit that families on the Station seem to be referred to as an “imago-line.” At this point it appears that imago-lines may be tied to your family’s duties on the Station (engineering for instace). I’m very curious to read more and find out what for sure what these terms mean!
I also want to give a shout out to to a few moments where Martine pays attention to nuances in language. For instance:
She knew the Teixcalaanli word for “explosion,” a centerpiece of military poetry, usually adorned with adjectives like “shattering” or “fire-flowered,” but now she learned, by extrapolation from the shouting, the one for “bomb.” It was a short word. You could scream it very loudly.
It’s only in the last few years that I’ve come to appreciate just how central language is to conveying, even subliminally, what is important to a culture, what it admires or what it scorns. Passages like this, describing how a word is used and the kinds of adjectives it’s coupled with, makes so much more of an impression on me than having an author throw a made-up word at me without any context.
What did you think of the excerpt? Share your thoughts below!