“People keep saying I’m a bel dame, but I’m not. Haven’t been in over twenty years. I’m just a woman… And you lied to me.”
Rapture defies easy explanation. It reminds me of watching a woman give birth, or or revenge sex, or even–dare I say it–of my current musical obsession, Disturbed’s acoustical version of The Sound of Silence. There is something that is simultaneously brutal, messy and life-affirming that cuts to the core.
After the events of Infidel, Nyx has retired to the coast, hidden in a house with Anneke and her brood of children. It’s a life of sorts, although she still isn’t able to avoid an occasional death. One evening, a government official and familiar face comes calling with an offer to return to the bel dames, if she’ll only take this one last job. It is a premise familiar to anyone familiar with retired heroes, but this is Nasheenian, and every offer comes with an implied threat: Nyx knows the only route to safety–and not even a sure one at that–is a scorched-earth policy.
“Nyx went upstairs. Opened the bedroom door. There sat her lover, Radeyah, sketching the view of the sea from the balcony on a foolishly expensive slide that devoured each stroke. She was joyously lit up in that moment like a woman at peace with God.”
With her usual complex ambiguity Nyx continues to deny sentiment and tenderness while committing unrelenting brutality to protect it. Hurley always does something amazing with character, and I found myself sympathizing with almost everyone at times. Three people from God’s War return and are followed in three seemingly separate story lines, There’s an additional appearance by a nameless, deadly woman who brings in a scene of awkward foreshadowing. For most of the book, the three attempt to manage their own issues; Rhys, managing a hardscrabble existance; Inaya leading shifter revolution; and Nyx’s mission to retrieve a certain man. It takes most of the book before they are fully woven together.
“‘You don’t have to kill everyone.’ She enjoyed bickering for bickering’s sake, like a child. He was nearly twenty-one now, and her shrill, seventeen-year-old fury felt like something half-remembered from a lifetime ago.”
Interestingly, though the final (?) book in the trilogy, the world of Umayma continues to be developed, held up and angled so that we meet the Drucians, and see The Wall at the end of the desert (which reminded me too much of LeGuin) and lingering First Family/intergalactic politics. The politics didn’t feel as organically brought in, largely feeling unfinished. I don’t doubt that there is a coherent background conception as much as I mistrust that they are conveyed to the reader in a cohesive fashion. The politics this time are something else, and while they incite the mission, they play a massive role in the ending. It feels a bit uneven and rough.
It it an amazing story, but suffers at times from uneven pacing. That didn’t stop me from reading, however, and it won’t stop me from re-reading. Or from becoming a Patreon for Hurley’s work, because, wow: it wallows in all the messy, organic body fluids of humanity while struggling to keep an eye on God.
“They were the ones who’d done what she hadn’t, and what most living folks never would–they lost their limbs, their skins, their sanity to take a burst or a bullet for a friend, for a squad, to save a mission. Those were the ones she worried about most. The heroes. Heroes were unpredictable.“