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A Memory Called Empire

(Teixcalaan #1)

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4.16  ·  Rating details ·  12,848 ratings  ·  2,125 reviews
Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn't an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of ...more
Paperback, 462 pages
Published March 2019 by Tor
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Estel Because over the course of the book one character is shown to be bi/pansexual, and two others have a same-sex romance. Romance is a small part of the …moreBecause over the course of the book one character is shown to be bi/pansexual, and two others have a same-sex romance. Romance is a small part of the book but the representation is there and positive.(less)
Kai Yes, but it is primarily a fish-out-of-water story, so if you want a focus on romance, you probably won't find that here. If you're avoiding romance, …moreYes, but it is primarily a fish-out-of-water story, so if you want a focus on romance, you probably won't find that here. If you're avoiding romance, you won't be hit with too much of it, although this is politics and relationships permeate everything.(less)

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chai ♡
find this review & others on my blog

On rare occasions—and when you’re very lucky—you stumble upon a book that awakens a dimension of you that you had not known existed. A story that feels like an unlocking, or a becoming, like something inside you is shifting into a new and strange place—piecing itself together or breaking apart or both. It’s a wonderful feeling: to find a story that you can carry within you so powerfully it sears through your bones, and expands in your chest, and winds
...more
carol.
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of sci-fi mysteries and space operas
With reservations.

What do you mean, what do I mean? There's something about it--as good, as inclusive, as remarkable as it is--that just fails to miss me. Possibly it's the empire-building genre. At any rate, this is probably what Alastair Reynolds was going for in The Prefect, only this was so much more tightly plotted, with better characterization, that it was far more satisfying. Perhaps my reservations are due to lingering disaffection, because Martine does exactly what I expected from Reyno
...more
Petrik
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ARC provided by the publisher—Tor Books—in exchange for an honest review.

Easily one of the cleverest sci-fi debuts I’ve read so far.

A Memory Called Empire is Arkady Martine’s debut novel and the first installment in the Teixcalaan series. Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in Teixcalaan only to find out that the previous ambassador from the same mining station as hers has died. Contrary to her belief, nobody wants to admit that his death wasn’t an accident, and now it’s up to Mahit to uncover who
...more
Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller
[2.5/5 stars] I have to take a moment to explain how excited I was to dive into this book. I was expecting rich culture, a complex plotline, and fascinating characters. And while I think all those components made an appearance, they weren’t nearly as amped up as I was hoping they’d be.

In fact, 85% of the story was pure dialogue and explanations. It TOLD me about this cool alien world and society, but it often neglected to SHOW me. And that feels like a colossal opportunity wasted. Incidentally,
...more
Nataliya
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an intelligent and well-crafted engrossing science fiction story that combines amazing worldbuilding with the political intrigue and murder mystery, and a fascinating exploration of the culture clashes and colonialism experience. I loved it. It tickled all the right places in my brain and was just a pleasure to read.
“That was the problem. Empire was empire—the part that seduced and the part that clamped down, jaws like a vise, and shook a planet until its neck was broken and it died.
...more
Lori
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has a slow at the start with the pace and world building then gets better as you go. Emphasis is own political intrigue in the Empire rather than action and thrills.
Gary
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ambassador Mahit Dzmare, the protagonist of Arkady Martine’s debut space opera A Memory Called Empire, has more than one identity crisis on her hands: she has a deep affinity for the empire that wants to annex her home and she also literally has someone else’s personality nested in her brain. Dzmare’s internal conflicts correlate with the external ones that drive the novel’s plot. Living within the Teixcalaan Empire has been her heart’s desire since childhood, yet her primary aim as ambassador i ...more
Rebecca Roanhorse
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I call this one The Aztec Empire in Space, in the best way. While a number of real world historical cultures no doubt influenced the superb and subtle worldbuilding in this novel, the one that I loved the most, that absolutely thrilled me, was the influence of the pre-conquest Aztec Empire. You so rarely see it in SFF (at least English language work). The naming conventions, the flowers, the people, the poetry, the sacrifice, the nahuatl word influence, and that's just the obvious things. There ...more
jade
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone because i think this book is The Shit (aka lovers of sci-fi court intrigue)
Recommended to jade by: the hugo award finalists 2020 (with a thank you to carol & nataliya!)
“the jaws of the empire opening up again, akimbo, bloody-toothed -- the endless self-justifying desire that was teixcalaan, and teixcalaanli ways of thinking of the universe. the empire, the world. one and the same. and if they were not yet so: make them so, for this is the right and correct will of the stars.”

in a dazzling sci-fi read high on worldbuilding and political intrigue, an ambassador to a small space station is trying to investigate her predecessor’s death at the court of
...more
Holly
Have you ever had to basically bribe yourself to finish a book? Like, you'll decide that if you read 50 more pages, you get to read a chapter of the book you would really rather be reading or you get to have a piece of candy. No? Just me? Well that's what I had to do to finish this book.

It started out well enough - the 'deadly technological secret' referenced in the blurb was absolutely the most interesting part of the book. Though I think labeling it 'deadly' is debatable. But once that secret
...more
Acqua
A Memory Called Empire is a political sci-fi novel with a main f/f romance, the best court intrigue I've read in months if not ever, and plot twists I didn't see coming.
It's set in a space empire in which straight isn't the default, most of the cast is queer, and the worldbuilding is complex but never confusing - everything I've ever wanted.

And yet it's so much more. I knew this would be an intense read for me right from the dedication, because this book is dedicated to anyone who has ever fa
...more
Elizabeth Bear
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An exceptional first novel recommended for fans of Cherryh, Leckie, Banks, and Asimov.
Dennis
***Winner of the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novel***

I really enjoyed this story of an ambassador that is new on the job and not only has to get used to a different place and culture, but also has to find out what lead to her predecessor‘s death. All this while she has an outdated version of him in her head, and her endocrine system.

I found the idea with the imago-machines, which preserve the memories of the dead, fascinating. The main character Mahit Dzmare should be able to benefit from the exper
...more
Allison Hurd
Attempt two:

Listened to the audio this time and it really smoothed out the issues I had with the prose. All my initial problems stand, but it was enjoyable. So, 3 stars, but I'm keeping the rating because it really needs to be listened to in order to be palatable, and really it still doesn't add up to a compelling story for me. A political intrigue book where none of the politics make sense and the intrigue is...mostly imaginary.

---------------

Time of death: 62%

I'm sorry, I'm skimming more and
...more
Bradley
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was something of a slow starter for me. I enjoyed the empire that ran on poetry aspect quite a bit. The standard book of poetical encryptions, the multilayered pride, and subversions built right into the language.

However, I've read a ton of murder-mysteries built into SF worlds so the core of the tale was something of a no-brainer and followed all the conventions. Welcome a stranger, an ambassador for a tiny space-station ensconced in a huge, huge empire, have her replace her murdered coun
...more
Aliette
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An intricate, layered tale of empire, personal ambition, political obligations and interstellar intrigue. Vivid and delightfully inventive.
Sarah
I'm super disappointed to be giving this only three stars (no three stars isn't bad- I'd just much rather give it four or five). I'm beginning to question whether it's me or the books.

I guess I'll start at the beginning. One of the first pages said something along the lines of: "This is for all those who have ever fallen in love with a culture that was not their own."

That one line pretty much sums up the whole book. Mahit (our MC) has spent her whole life training to be an ambassador from her h
...more
Nick Borrelli
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Over the past thousand years or so the Teixcalaanli Empire has been gradually swallowing up smaller planets and outposts to add to its vastly growing domain, often with no care with regard to the free people now being forced to bend the knee. You see, The Empire considers itself to be the height of superior intellect, artistic achievement, ethics, and overall culture. So when the small independent mining station Lsel is contacted by The Empire to supply another ambassador because the current one ...more
Scott
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
If you don’t have time to read this entire review, know one thing: Arkady Martine is riotously talented.

If you have time to read no further than this second line, know another: you should read this book.

If you’ve got this far, know a third thing: A Memory called Empire, is one of my favorite SF novels of the last twelve months.

That’s all you really need to know. If you love a good SF novel that is more than the pew-pew of laser pistols and the throaty roar of warp-drives, then a visit to your l
...more
Kelly
Now *this* is what I ordered when I asked for palace intrigue. This is what I wanted when I was told I was getting a look at the mechanics of empire from an outsider just trying to make it in a bewildering labyrinth of political backstabbing and desperate power grabbing. And this one did it one better because we got what is most useful in empire stories, the thing I teach my kids over and over again in my global studies classes: how their foundation isn’t political, it’s the cultural programming ...more
Peter Tillman
So, the best introduction to this wonderful book is the author interview at NPR: https://www.npr.org/2019/04/07/710356...
Now a Hugo nominee for Best Novel. Yay! Can't wait for #2. Get writing, AM! Sadly, I see Tor (& AM) have pushed back the release date to 3-2021. Grumble.

Galactic empires have a long pedigree in SF. The world-city capitol of Teixcalaan will remind old-timers of Asimov’s Trantor. But Martine’s iteration has some fresh twists. New ambassador Mahit Dzmare is shoved into deep wate
...more
Dave
"A Memory Called Empire" is a densely-packed, detailed story of interstellar palace intrigue. Those expecting shoot-em-up action need to slow it down a little here. It's a very thick story that takes a while to be fully revealed. One of the central themes is past lives memory in the form of imago machines much like the past lives of Frank Herbert's Bene Gesserits and often a struggle for mind domination with a ghost from the past. Other themes involve how a minority culture on a distant frontier ...more
Anthony
This is a dense, fascinating, strange exploration of diplomacy and otherness and culture clash that is packed to the gills with ideas and richly-conceived details. It is alternately vividly entertaining & somewhat obtuse, but I found myself more or less swept along the whole way. There is a tremendous amount that happens to the protagonist of this tale, and I can’t say that the cumulative emotional and physical effects of her jam packed adventures — some of which are downright traumatic — are al ...more
Mara
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Full political intrigue in an interesting world not our own?? Yes please! This was a reminder of what I really enjoy about SFF books-- seeing our own humanity and struggles through the metaphor of a different society with different technological or magical capabilities. The characters in this were strong and compelling, and I really enjoyed all of the twists of the plot, which revolves around political machinations & a new ambassador from a satellite kingdom of a vast interplanetary empire. The ...more
Cathy
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
Very, very good. Great concepts, excellent character development, great dialogues, humour, emotional depth...

“Ambassador Dzmare,“ he said, „welcome to the Jewel of the World. A pleasure.“

Mahit, a very green-behind-the-ears ambassador, comes to the capital of the empire that might have designs on her home, Lsel Station. This is what she yearned for, but it‘s not entirely what it was supposed to be. And things don‘t go as planned.

After the first two chapters this made me think of Ann Leckie‘s Impe
...more
Lindsay
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
One of my favorite plots in science fiction is the stranger in a strange land, where we follow an individual from a culture as they are immersed in a different culture. Our stranger is Ambassador Mahit Dzmare of Lsel Station, a small independent culture based around space stations and asteroid mining. The strange land is the capitol of the Teixcalaan Empire, a sprawling cultural and military monstrosity of an empire that dominates human space and grows through conquest and annexation. There are ...more
Justine
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read
4.5 stars

Multilayered, creative, and finely written, all the more impressive when considering this is a debut novel. Basically all the hype is both true and well-deserved.

Interestingly, while I was reading this the writing style kept reminding me of Vivian Shaw. Strange Practice is a completely different story, in a different genre, but has a similarly comfortable and personal narrative style. It turns out Vivian Shaw is Arkady Martine's partner!

Although this book can be read as a standalone, t
...more
Meagan ✊🏼 Blacklivesmatter ✊🏼Blacktranslivesmatter
What a debut! This is definitely political sci-fi. Some of the choices Mahit made at the end really surprised me 😊😊. The writing, world building, character development, and political intrigue were amazing! The f/f relationship felt organic and it was such a slow burn. Loved it! This read like a standalone so I am curious to see what the next book will be about.
K.J. Charles
Aug 23, 2020 added it
Shelves: sf
The praise and the prizes are well deserved. A tremendous read, with fabulous worldbuilding, deep humanity, great characters, heart-thumping tension, twisty politics, and an immense amount to think about. Cultural cringe, domination and appropriation, the way culture shapes our morality as well as how we understand things, often to mutual incomprehensibility, what even is 'personality' outside a culture when we're all composed of memory (our own and others) and our politico-social context. Which ...more
Lata
This book was wonderful! I can also see why it's compared to some of C.J. Cherryh's work, such as her atevi society in the Foreigner series, which ran on tea. Copious amounts of it. The Teixcalaan Empire of this book runs on poetry. Copious amounts of it.
Mahit Dmzare has been training at Lsel Station to be an ambassador to the Teixcalaan Empre, when she's told the Empire has requested a replacement for their existing Lsel ambassador, Yskandr. When she arrives at the City, the main city of the em
...more
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