Monday, March 17, 2014

Moral Ambiguity, Part 2: Kicking Ass and Taking Names

I loved Rachel Bach's Fortune's Pawn with a fiery passion, as I have mentioned previously.  The band of misfits rattling around the galaxy, Devi Morris and her amazing suit of armor, with just enough confusing mystery to keep me tempted, but not so much that I'm bewildered.  It was a fun, Firefly-esque, action-packed charmer of a romp.

And then along comes Honor's Knight and turns it all inside out, pretty much instantly, in the most AWESOME way possible. The charming madcap crew is on a deadly serious mission that involves some VERY morally sketchy behavior.  The gruff-but-respectable captain, it turns out, is pretty much torturing innocent children for the good of the universe.  The Bad Guy (not to be confused with the Dangerous Force of Nature) from the previous book might actually be on the side of the angels.  And the angels may or may not be psychotic.

I am always craving books that don't pretend the answers are easy.  I'm always a little disappointed when the "right" thing to do is easy to determine, and turns out to actually work.  No, we can't sacrifice those civilians to save the world--there's got to be another way!  And then--here's the place where it falls apart--there is. How uplifting! I love a happy ending as much as the next guy--more, depending on who the next guy is.

But reality isn't like that, and the world is full of trade-offs.  You can't Kobayashi Maru your way out of every situation, in spite of what Doctor Who has tried to tell us for the past few years.

There are some good examples of these stories: the episode of Torchwood where they need to sacrifice one child to save the world.  The Cabin in the Woods, where the whole premise is to save the world by killing a bunch of teenagers.  It's wrong to kill a bunch of teenagers...but what if it's the only way to save the world?

E.M. Forster said, "If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country." (The internet, by the way, usually quotes this as "courage" instead of "guts."  I find the original charming.) But there's a difference between a country--an idea and a political system--and The World, humanity, and life as we know it.  But how can you tell the difference?

I'm deep in the rabbit hole here.  The point is, this book starts out turning things on their heads.  This might be the best second book in a trilogy I've ever read--it makes things more complicated, explains the things you wanted to know from the first one, sets up its own whole set of action, raises the stakes, adds depth to the characters--it was so good, guys.  Just so good.

AND!  And Heaven's Queen is coming out next month.  AND I HAVE MY ARC!  I will get back to you on that very, very soon.  I got an ARC of this book, too, for the record.  I would have bought it the day it came out if I hadn't.

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