I haven’t been doing much in the way of book reviews in the last few months due to the limited free time, but I need to take some time to pontificate about this awesome book.
Like most books I read now, I found Lex Talionis by RSA Garcia via a recommendation from another person I know. I’ve been twitter pal’s with the author’s sister for a while and she was all like “Hey, my sister has a book coming out. You should check it out.” Whaddya know, it’s right up my alley.
On one of Earth’s planetary outposts, a young woman dies–and is brought back to life by a mysterious alien.
Inside a military starship, a wounded soldier is stalked by an unseen enemy.
When Lex reawakens in a clinic, she doesn’t remember who she is, or who killed her. All she remembers is a phrase she does not understand. Lex Talionis. The law of revenge. Stripped of her past, Lex focuses on the only thing she can. Retribution. She will find the people who murdered her and she will make them pay.
What Lex doesn’t know is that she’s being hunted. The alien who saved her and the soldier fighting for survival are the keys to her past…and her future. She must discover what they know before the hunter finds her. Every clue brings her closer to powerful enemies. Everything she learns draws her nearer to the person who almost destroyed her.
The only man she has ever loved.
Lex takes one of my favorite sci-fi tropes and runs with it blending the whole thing with mystery-thriller aspects. Protags with amnesia that are trying to learn who they are right along with the reader are an underutilized trope in the genre. Other than this book, I can think of four in all of my bookshelves that deal with it. One of them happens to be my all time favorite book, Nine Princes in Amber. I guess that meant I started reading Lex with the bar set pretty high. That was alright, ’cause Garcia nailed it.
I mentioned above how Garcia blended some mystery-thriller tropes into her book. I felt that a lot of them were in the storytelling itself. There are two very distinct parts of the story corresponding with how much memory Lex has. Because of this, the timeline and the POVs bounce around a lot. It’s not sometime I often see done to the extent Garcia does it. I found it different, but never distracting or confusing. The book also starts with a slow burn rather than huge bang. Garcia takes the time to set things up in the first quarterish of the book. She’s setting us up for a marathon, not a sprint. I only dabble in mystery books, but I got a sense that the pacing came from the influence of that genre.
Holy shit, the payoff is worth it.
When Lex hit its climax, I was seriously impressed as a reader and a writer. There is one passage is probably the most cinematic passage I’ve ever read in a book. For lack of an adequate literary term, Garcia crosscuts between two parallel scenes and creates this mosaic that floored me. The two different scenes become more powerful together and flow together as one scene. In years of film school, I saw very few filmmakers do this well. I have never seen a writer do it well. That’s the kind of craft that turns a good chapter into a friggin’ amazing chapter.
Lex’s character arc is satisfying as is the resolution of her immediate problems. There are a lot of doors left open for the sequel, but I wasn’t left bothered by any dangling plot threads. If anything, the set up for the sequel is exciting. I am interested in seeing the direction Garcia is taking Lex on her overarching quest. By playing around with the timeline again towards the end, Garcia gives us a glimpse of the sequel and there are a lot more I want to see.
So it was a little difficult to dance around spoilers, (Lex is partially a mystery after all) but I cannot recommend this book enough. I love blending genres together. It helps keep the whole scene fresh by pushing SF in new directions. There is also something really awesome about discovering a new author’s first novel. I’ve done it a few times now, (Wendig, Cole, Chu, Manieri, Ahmed) and it gets me excited as a reader to see the promise laid out in front of them. I am grateful that the random connections of the internet led me to this book and I hope you give it a shot. The genre needs books like this in a dozen different ways. And Garcia is rad. So’s her book. Go read it.