Epic science fiction novel about faith, war and moral righteousness
Content warning: war, torture, abuse
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.
“The Genesis of Misery” by Neon Yang is a science fiction novel about Misery, a petty criminal from a backwater planet, who has found themselves in hot water again. Misery has the power to manipulate certain types of stones, but is all too aware that this means they will likely die of voidmadness like their mother did. In fact Misery has already begun hearing voices. However, when the voice starts giving more and more specific suggestions, Misery begins to listen and is catapulted from marauder to messiah. Misery’s abilities find themself immersed in an ideological war. Increasingly extremist, is Misery’s war truly righteous or have they become the villain?
This was a really interesting story with an incredible amount of character development. I think this book is a fascinating study on the progression of extremism and the corruptibility of people with power. At the beginning of the book, Misery is fiery, logical and caught up in the goal of escaping their troubled background. However, as she listens more to the voice and leans into her powers, her moral compass begins to shift towards a completely different direction. This is also a really compelling book on the morality of war, and Yang uses a really unique third person omniscient perspective. As a reader, you feel really immersed in Misery’s thoughts and in the beginning, you feel really aligned with Misery. With great subtlety and effectiveness, Yang makes us question our continued alliance with this protagonist. This book embeds the use of preferred pronouns, building on Yang’s previous work, and makes living your authentic self an unquestioned part of Misery’s society.
However, I think that at times the book struggled in terms of readibility. A lot of the worldbuilding felt like broad brushstrokes and apart from some of the nuance of the religious war, I came away from the book feeling like I didn’t have much of a sense of the setting whether it was planetside, in a spaceship or in a giant mecha.
A thought-provoking example of science fiction that didn’t always bring the reader along with it.