Cover Image: The Genesis of Misery

The Genesis of Misery

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I knew this one would be hard for me going in but I was still hoping for a 4/5 star read, maybe even 3.5/5 but I was very jarred by the character work in this story. The point of this work is to follow the development of our character Misery, someone who when we meet them thinks she is hallucinating about this angel Ruin who is determined to help them meet their destiny. While we follow that there is a lot of amazing world building to experience, especially if you like descriptions that are dense and opulent. This had a lot of the feel of descriptive writing and space opera world building I associate with some of the classic space opera greats. Where I had issues was caring about the plot and connecting to Misery. The plot is a pretty basic political situation and how it develops was engaging even while I should have been engaged but I think the main reason I give this a rare below three star rating is how Misery's character development is executed. I think I can see the logic behind some explanations for why the execution makes sense but while reading it I was incredibly confused and concerned and even after thinking of and discussing reasons I still didn't come around enough to change my rating since my frustration was still so high. Which is a shame because the world building was so cool and vibrant but I had nothing else to latch on to.
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I had a hard time deciding what I thought of this book, and I'm sure I'll be thinking about it for some time, which is it's own form of praise. I was super with it for the first half, and then Plot Events Happened and the direction changed. I understand why, and I think the author was doing something really interesting, but I still found it frustrating to read at times, especially near the end. Both the prologue and epilogue were fantastic, and I liked a lot about the book, but some things just did not work for me.
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t's my stop on the B2W tour for "The Genesis of Misery" by Neon Yang (@itsneonyang). Thank you Neon and @torbooks!

How to cope once you've finished a book billed as Joan of Arc meets Gideon the Ninth and Pacific Rim?
The healthy answer would be not listen to me. The fun answer is grab an ineffective leader and German Suplex them into a volcano, then go adopt 6 dogs and retire.

Reasons to read:
-The story is about passing off delusions as being a Messiah to a space empire to avoid being killed, that's awesome
-The names of people and ships are right up my alley, "The Wolf at the Door" is an excellent ship name
-Am I crazy or a messenger from the space god? Let's just not think about it
-Princess who is built like an MMA fighter
-Mecha, I'm feasting this year

-Based on the way its billed you reeeeeeally think it's going to end well for everyone?
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*2.5 stars*

I enjoyed the premise of this book, not so much the execution. I loved Misery and Ruin's banter in the beginning, but quickly got annoyed with Misery as she became more of a zealot + the side characters were just kinda there for Misery to bounce off of. I enjoyed it more where she was lying and not having any cares. Ruin being the narrator was okay, but I eventually got tired of her interludes going "who's right, nobody knows, I guess its up to you dear reader" schtick. The writing style got super repetitive as well and although I like cut and dry, get to the point type of writing - this one was rough to get through. If I didn't know any better some of the "dreaming" chapters start with the same sentence every time. Obviously, the book starts with the ending and how it got there - and like I said I enjoyed the beginning but the one thing I enjoyed was Misery and after she devolved and got into the holy mech, my god was it boring. I know some people will thoroughly enjoy this, and I'm sad I didn't. It gave me Evangelion vibes and I absolutely wish I could've loved it more. But, in the end it just got to repetitive, slow, and boring for me. I do have to say I enjoyed how being queer was just so normal in this universe and the absolute bisexual energy it radiated.
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The Genesis of Misery wasn’t the hit I was hoping it would be. I will admit part of this was because of misplaced expectations. While I can appreciate some of what Neon Yang was going for I ultimately didn’t connect to this story as much as I'd hoped I would.

The Genesis of Misery follows Misery Nomaki (she/they) a burnout criminal from a dirt-poor mining planet. Misery is seeing visions and is convinced she’s on the precipice of succumbing to the same madness that took her mother’s life. However, her will to survive sees her play the role of a prophet and she soon becomes a key player in turning the tides of an intergalactic war.

As I mentioned above I went into this novel with skewed expectations. Namely that politics and tensions between the monarchy and church would take centre stage in the novel. I know it's unfair to measure a book by your own expectation rather than what you’re given, but what makes this bait-and-switch frustrating for me was the hints of fascinating complex politicking in the background of the narrative. Reflections on the futility of war and cyclical violence existed exclusively in the background of the story and our protagonist rarely engaged with them.

I will say Neon Yang’s prose throughout this novel was fairly well rendered. Barring a handful of jarring modern anachronism and instances of meme speak Yang captured religious grandiosity incredibly well thought the story. They were especially skilled at describing the mechas that become central to the story. Yang articulated just how reverence-inducing the angel-like mechs were. They also contrasted that holy imagery with their inherent brutality to great effect. Overall Yang's lush descriptive prose was well suited to this tale.

While I liked Neon Yang's descriptive prose I didn't connect with their narrative style. This story is largely told by a third-person omniscient narrator. While we can get pretty close to Misery’s thoughts and feelings there was often a distant formality to the storytelling that held me at arm's length. This was most apparent in the series of interludes scattered throughout the novel that bridged gaps in time and offered a retroactive perspective on events. These often drained immediacy of Misery's feelings making it harder to connect with them.

My initial disconnect with Misery as a character wasn't helped by how rocky I found her character arc. We are introduced to Misery as a cynical opportunist willing to do anything to survive. As a staunch non-believer, they are in complete denial about the possibility that they are actually the prophet that was promised and only playacts as such to stay alive. I wouldn't have objected to seeing a gradual change of heart as Misery either becomes more convinced she's a prophet or finds greater meaning than self-preservation. However, the narrative gives us an almost instant conversion instead. Misery's journey from a self-involved swindler to the Forge’s most faithful was abrupt, to say the least. From that moment her motivations, beliefs, goals and personality completely changed dissolving what little connection I had with them in the first place. This meant as the story reached a crescendo I wasn't invested in what was going on.

If there’s a positive note I can leave this review with its that The Genesis of Misery’s ending was somewhat redeeming. The reveal of who had been narrating the tale was fitting and contextualized the story in new and interesting ways. This satisfying note the story ended on did ultimately soften the rough edges of the book for me.
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* I was given an advanced reader copy through NetGalley for an honest review.* 

It took me a while to get through this book, but I’m so glad I stuck with it. The world building really throws you into the deep side, so it takes a bit to adjust but once you do it’s phenomenal. The imagery, characters, and world building are where this book shined.

I finished this right after finishing Nona the ninth and it helped fill that weird sci Fi cluster void. Loved it!
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What does it mean to be “chosen?” How do you differentiate between encounters with the divine and mental delusion? Is the harm you inflict justified if it’s for a greater purpose? What if you are merely the vessel carrying out the will of a higher power?

I’m still trying to fully wrap my head around Neon Yang’s The Genesis of Misery, a science fiction adventure set in a civilization created by the refugees of Earth. Long after the “Old Planet” is forgotten, its descendants are divided - the Crown and Church of the Faithful vs. the Heretics. The story is told from the perspective of the Faithful, with little information given about the Heretics beyond their embrace of science and rejection of the divine.

The publisher describes the book as “a space opera twist on Joan of Arc’s story that explores the nature of truth, the power of belief, and the interplay of both in the stories we tell ourselves.” And I can see how The Genesis of Misery could be a parable criticizing the machinations of our world’s leaders and strivers - how the “word of God” is used to justify oppression and how politicians easily manipulate the faithful in support of their personal rise to power.

I admire Yang’s stress on the importance of individual pronouns throughout. Two of the characters even discuss how and why a person may choose pronouns different than those given at birth. While I understand that some readers may need the explanation, it felt too much like a “the more you know” public service message. I think having the characters seek out and recognize pronoun preferences successfully showed positive non-binary rep on its own. (But I say this from the perspective of a white cis-female.)

I recommend The Genesis of Misery as a book worth reading for science fiction fans. While I like sci-fi, it’s not a genre I frequently choose. But no matter what the genre, I am drawn to stories with strong character development and the relationships between characters. This is where the book fell short for me. I didn’t feel connected to the characters nor drawn into the plot. I found myself wishing that the story was told from two different perspectives, alternating chapters between the Faithful and the Heretic point of view. Perhaps Misery and the other Faithful are meant to be unrelatable? But if that was the aim - heretic that I am - it left me wanting a character I could cheer for.

Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and NetGalley for access to this eARC.
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4.5 Stars.

Loved this book and cannot wait to see where Yang takes us in book 2! I listened to them talk about it in a recent live chat. This book is perfect for fans of Evangelion, Dune, and Hyperion! The cover art is absolutely stunning too.
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This is a weird review and honestly a weird book. Is it a bad book, not necessarily but it is a lot and not always in a good way. Why? Well for one, it throws you in the deep end and expects you to float. The worldbuilding is heavy and important to understanding the story but the other problem is that at the beginning, absolutely none of it makes sense.

The other huge issue with this book is that the entire thing is overwritten. There’s so much detail and writing that doesn’t need to be there. It all could have stopped short before it devolved into word vomit but that’s what happened. As I was reading, I was going back super often trying to figure out what the heck I’d read or what was going on. There’s so much set dressing it’s easy to get lost.

Then there’s the story itself. For a while, everything is setup to show how different Misery is from everyone else, how cool they are and even though there was a lot we were being told, I didn’t connect to any of it.

What I absolutely did love was the use of pronouns. “Misery, they/she” or the princess popped up and “she/her” was after it and it did not detract from the reading experience at all. It was the same kind of flow as everything else plus it offered a lot of diversity that way and I appreciated that aspect.

Unfortunately I can’t say there was much else I liked. There’s a lot of telling, not showing, it makes it hard to get close to the characters, the writing is clunky at best and it’s just a lot. I don’t know if I’d ever read anything else by the author because of this. It’s not a favorite of mine.

I’m giving it a two (2) out of five (5) because of the flaws. You can’t just throw people into something with no explanation, along with everything else.

I received this eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to them and the publisher.
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CW: mass murder, religious extremism

I’m a huge fan of Neon Yang’s Tensorate series and have always wished the author would write more stories in that world. But I was still delighted when this first full length novel of theirs was announced and I’ve been eager to get to it. Despite getting the arc though, my reading slump prevailed and it’s only now when I managed to get my hands on the audiobook did I finally finish the book, and I think my wait was worth it. 

This is a space opera set in a far futuristic world with quite a few intense action sequences, but ultimately it feels like a personal story of our main character - which makes the scope of the story wide as well as small, and I loved this dichotomy. The framing device used here with someone else narrating this story to others in the future is something I’ve come to enjoy, and I particularly liked getting to know the narrator’s opinions in some of the brief interludes. I know that this book is promoted as a queer Joan of Arc retelling but I know nothing about the Saint, so I will refrain from commenting about it. But the religious elements are definitely very strong here and I think that’s what made this a very unique experience for me. And it’s also such fun to see a very religious world, with almost a Christianity like religion, but in a very queer normative world where every character is introduced along with their pronouns, and gender and sexuality atleast are not the basis for any bigotry. 

While having only a single character and their journey being a focal point of the story might have put me off coz I love having a huge cast of characters to love, I actually liked Misery. They are someone who just wanted to escape from their remote mining town and have a life of independence, hopefully, but are thrust into a centuries long religious war between the Faithful and the Heretics. They can’t be sure if they are going voidmad or are an actual prophecied Messiah - and if their constant companion Ruin is an Angel or a figment of their imagination - but they go along with it so they can survive. They are either hindered or helped in their endeavors by various people, one of whom becomes their lover but I don’t wanna spoil much,  except that it’s a very intense and meaningful relationship for the both of them. 

But where religion and messiahs are a thing, we can clearly see what will follow. While we get our action set pieces featuring spaceships and mechs and very advanced technology, the heart of this story is about what happens when religious fanaticism meets a very quick thinking, self assured person like Misery Nomaki; what happens when one person’s hubris borne out of the need for survival combines with the (maybe misguided) righteousness of a religious cause,  and is equally hailed by others as a messiah and savior. It ends in messy confusion and destruction, but not necessarily enlightenment, but that’s what makes this a compelling story. 

In the end, I don’t know if I can call this story enjoyable but I was engaged all through and loved following along with Misery on her journey towards greatness or infamy. This is definitely a story for those who love exploring religious themes through the lens of sci-fi, and I thought making it a queernorm world makes it’s a much more unique experience. This book feels very self contained, even if there are quite a few loose ends and I liked that. But I remember the author mentioning that the next book would be told through a new character’s POV, so now I’m eager to explore more of this world through another person’s eyes and hope we’ll still get glimpses of Misery and the others.
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My only experience with Neon Yang's writing is the Black Tides of Heaven series, which I did not enjoy, but someone sold this to me as great for Neon Genesis Evangelion fans, so I bit.

I don't know if I should have. 

On the surface, this book has everything I need: diverse rep, scifi, unique concept... But it just wasn't executed the way I expected, and I felt like it wasn't really my kind of book. I think this will appeal to a lot of people, but it just wasn't for me. I'll throw it three stars for an average review, but truthfully I had to argue with myself to pick up this book every time I went back to it. 

Petition to stop using comparisons to recommend books to people in 2022 please. Let works stand on their own.
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Misery Nomaki is a fraud with an affinity for the holy gemstones that power her world. When her latest scam goes awry and she begins seeing visions, she attempts a new, bigger scam: passing herself off as a prophet. Oddly enough, it seems she may actually be not a void-mad scam artist but actually a messiah with the power to save her people - if she doesn't kill them all first. A creative look inside the head of a Joan of Arc figure, one whose disbelief begins to become faith. As a non-religious reader, some aspects were beyond me, but the read was fun nonetheless. This is a book that calls for a reread and a serious think  afterwards.
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Big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was a wild ride. I feel like I read this book at the wrong time. There were many parts that I really enjoyed and some that flew over my head. I think I should give this book a try at another time when I can dedicate more attention to it.
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Bear with me, but I hated how this book started - an indulgent scene of storytelling and the way stories are altered by whose POV it comes from. I typically don’t like a book, movie, or TV show that is one party telling the story of something else - it only works for me with The Princess Bride - so this opening made me quite wary of this book. Luckily it settles in pretty quickly.

We start with a person - Misery (she/they) - on the run, who is maybe afflicted with voidsickness or is maybe the savior prophesied to come. When they arrive in the capital, she is quickly overcome with a feeling that something is wrong. Despite attempts to escape, they find themselves out of their depth, more powerful and important than she realized, and saddled with an impossible task. As they attempt to fulfill their role, she finds herself deeper and deeper in an us versus them mindset while the reader is left questioning who the good guys and bad guys truly are.

This book was a really interesting exploration into faith, fate, factions, and fragility. I’m not sure if it’s a popular theme in media right now or just the way that I’m experiencing the world, but I keep coming across stories that complicate the classic “good guys vs bad guys” story. I think about what Rings of Power is doing with the Adar storyline and the humanization of orcs, similarly in this story where there are all these parallels and throughlines with the heretics but they are baselessly discounted as evil as the protagonists ignore every facet of their humanity. I was constantly questioning if our supposed good guys were actually the good guys and I wanted to know so much more about the heretics. 

I also loved and was conflicted about the faith aspect of this book and the will of the forge. There is so much room for interpretation within the way the forge influences people and yet it comes across with utter certainty from the mouth of the messiah - which feels very similar to corporate faith structures in the world. That there appears a clear and singular will from a creator or a deity through the voice of a church, when upon deeper investigation it’s not always that clear.

This book took me a while to get through, and while it wasn’t as enthralling as I was hoping, it explores some complex and incredibly interesting ideas in unique ways and has so much to offer. And I think this would be a particularly good book for a book club as there are so many themes to discuss!

Thanks to Tor and NetGalley for the free copy in exchange for my honest review!
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Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

This one is hard for me to rate/review.  There were a lot of concepts I really liked about the book and I was really compelled by the idea.  It started a little slow and some of that was just getting used to the universe and terms.  The middle really picked up and I was super invested and then I felt like it slowed down again.  Some of the parts seemed really disparate and felt like they had different tones which led to the book not feeling like it flowed well for me.  One of the big things for me was after the big event in the middle of the book (which was the part I loved and got really invested in) the characters really seemed to change.  And I get that they went through something life/self altering but I felt like the princess became an entirely different person and didn't retain much of her old personality.  I would have loved more detail and background on the world too (but maybe this is my fault for simultaneously listening to another space opera that was twice the length of this).
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The science book is maybe one of the most impressive books I’ve attempted and maybe a little bit genius.

Misery (she/they) is a Joan of Arc figure in a sci-fi universe of survivors who’ve left earth to form their own civilization.

The religion, politics, and worldbuilding in this book were so consuming and interesting, and while the first 25% takes a bit to get used to, ultimately this is a wildly entertaining ride.

Misery is a super fascinating queer character, and I absolutely love the Messiah trope as presented here. We’re never sure if it’s for real or not.

I predict fans of Gideon the Ninth will love this one!
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***Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book.***
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This book was a wild ride of a read. The world building is complex and nuanced, with an interesting mesh up of themes and concepts. Giant mechas, overbearing governments, and strong religious tones a la Joan of Arc. I thought the characters were rich and full of depth and the space opera political maneuverings were well-rendered. Misery is a trip to read and their character really carried the book.
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4.00 Stars. Queer Joan of Arc meets ‘Pacific Rim’. I was really excited to read this book. I love anything with mechs, and I have wanted to read something by Neon Yang, who used to write under JY Yang, so this looked like the perfect fit for me. It’s heavy sci-fi with a mix of fantasy and maybe military fantasy and I found myself quite drawn into this world Yang created and was happy to go along for the ride.

I’m a little late on this review. I actually started reading this book on Sunday, thinking I would finish on Monday and post my review when it released Tuesday, but that was in error since I finally finished last night (Friday) because this book ended up being a slog for me. I know that when you normally say slog and book in the same sentence that it means a bad thing but it doesn’t really here, it just means the truth. While this book had some great action moments, it was a slower read. I read Iron Widow, another mech book this year and I flew through it as it was mostly just entertainment. This book was pretty hardcore sci-fi and you had to read things carefully so you could catch everything that was going on. It’s not one of those books that you have no idea what you are reading, I understood everything but I had to read carefully.

Another issue that I think slowed down the pace of reading for me was the third person narrative form of storytelling from a character that is not the main character. Coming from someone that actually loves first person and close psychic distance to the main character, this type to faraway feeling from the main character would really irk me at times. Sometimes Yang could get you close enough so you would feel what Misery was feeling, other times I was too far away and I was only being told what Misery was experiencing instead.

The book was wonderfully queer. Misery she/they is the main character. I noticed that some people didn’t care for this but because of computer chip implants, everyone’s pronouns are always introduced when new characters are introduced to each other. I saw that some readers didn’t like reading all the pronouns but I thought it was interesting since I have never seen so many used in the same book. Sexuality is very fluid and it is not even spoken about with any issues. Misery sleeps with people with he/him pronouns but has her main relationship with someone who uses she/her. I’m being vague on purpose because I don’t want to say who it is because Misery’s relationship with this person, that she has real feelings for, is one of the only real relationships that she has in the whole book so it is too important to give away.

In this book, people believe that Misery is the messiah they’ve been waiting for and that she will help the religious faithful in the mech war against the heretics. Misery, doesn’t believe in any of it and while she has a few powers, she thinks she is going crazy so she doesn’t mind pretending in hope of escaping The Crown who doesn’t seem to be happy of her arrival anyway. This right there is where the book really shined. It was a great premise and when Misery was her snarky but badass self, were some of my absolutely favorite parts. There were still parts that I really enjoyed later on, but I think besides the character of Misery’s partner, most of the secondary characters just needed a little more character building. They were all close but just not quite there. And while the book was decent size already, the time jumps took away from precious character building time that was needed with other characters. Adding some extra page length to a book like this would have been fine and welcomed for that issue.

TLDR: This was a pretty hardcore sci-fi book. I had some definite issue with it, but in the end, I’m a sucker for badass women and nb characters and mechs so this was still any easy 4 stars for me. This book is a slower read, it took me 3-4 times what I expected, but because I read carefully, I found I was able to understand almost everything. This is NOT one of those ‘WTH did I just read’ books, it’s just not an easy read. I don’t know if this is the end of Misery or not. With the ending Yang really left it either way but I would absolutely read a second book because I believe Misery has some unfinished business to attend.

A copy was kindly given to me for an honest review.
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I really enjoyed The Genesis of Misery, and was completely hooked by the premise (space opera x Joan of Arc)? There are a few caveats to this: I am an SFF reader who *loves* the lyrical, and have a higher threshold of accepting prose choices over worldbuilding or plot choices. If you are the opposite, that may affect your enjoyment of this book. The prose was stunning, and woven with the plot and worldbuilding in a way that wasn't distracting to me. There were a few instances where I would have loved some additional detail or clarity, but was willing to accept the unknown because of the gorgeous prose. Again, if that's a sticking point for you, your opinion likely will be quite different.

The framing of the story is interesting (recognizing you are literally being "told" the story of Misery). I think it worked well, especially considering the Joan of Arc aspect (a story all of us have been "told" in different iterations) and established a grandiose sense of a reader being told a legend in retrospect. However, it does create some narrative distance that some might dislike.

Overall, if you are fond of the lyrical in your SFF, but do still want high stakes, I think this book will be a good fit (and if you aren't typically a reader of space operas).
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