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A Confusion Of Science Fiction Classics

A review of A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

A Confusion Of Science Fiction Classics

BOOK REPORT for A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

Cover Story: Ectoplasmic Ambiguity
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Something's Missing
Bonus Factors: Fringe Space, Diversity
Relationship Status: You've Changed

Cover Story: Ectoplasmic Ambiguity

Doesn't this cover remind you of those Ghostbusters juice boxes, Ecto Coolers? It's totally Slimer colored. The cover model is weird, and it's been remarked on more eloquently by The Book Smugglers, because he looks like he's probably white although Nix goes to great lengths to describe the main character -- and many other of the book's cast -- as not white. But he's pretty shadowy, so who knows? Still, it kind of suckily looks like the publisher was too afraid to overtly show a non-white, and made it all ambiguous instead.

The Deal:

Khemri is a Prince of the Empire. That means he was specially selected as an infant because of superior genetic potential, surgically and otherwise modified (sorta like getting an adamantine skeleton), improved, and upgraded to something superhuman. He's more or less immortal, since if he dies, the Imperial Mind can bring him back to life. When he first sets out after his training to conquer space or whatever it is Princes do while waiting to see if they'll be selected to be the next Emperor, he ends up coming face to face with humanity -- and having to explore whether or not he's human or deserves to be.

BFF Charm: Meh

You're not really SUPPOSED to like Khemri when he's a Prince. Princes are arrogant and spend most of their lives trying to kill each other, doing drugs, and having sex with prostitutes -- you know, like royalty should. I think you're supposed to start liking Khemri as he becomes aware of his role in the Empire and the lies he's been fed, and especially when he spends time among unmodified humans, but he didn't ring true to me. There wasn't enough depth of emotion or reflection, and I felt like Khemri never quite shed his Princely trappings well enough for me to want to get closer than sharing a table in the caf if there wasn't anything else available.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

The romance between Khemri and Raine, a human woman he meets on his adventures, was major InstaLove. First, I have NO IDEA what she saw in Khemri, so I found it hard to believe she fell for him as quickly as he fell for her. Second, everything moved way too quickly. They go from not knowing each other to falling into bed in about 20 pages, and I need a bit more buildup than that, thanks.

Talky Talk: Something's Missing

Jumping from one situation to another with little transition wasn't limited to the romantic storyline -- it was the hallmark of the entire book. There were some potentially interesting scenes at the Princely Naval Acadamy (or whatever it was called) that could have really delved into the politics of the Empire and the mentality of the Princes, but instead they just read like poor copies of Starship Troopers (the movie, even) and Ender's Game, without exploring any deep issues. The whole book really just read like a flyover of modern science fiction's greatest hits -- the technology was very Neuromancer, the Empire was both Star Wars and Firefly, the humanity question very Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and countless others. I was really disappointed, because Mr. Nix is one of my favorite fantasy authors and can create gorgeous, original worlds and deep characters, and he's handled science fiction deftly in the past.

Bonus Factor: Fringe Space

Like some of the works I mentioned above, this book deals with the fringes of an empire, and I LOVE my intergalactic smugglers and rebels, from Han Solo to Mal, and I also adore the storyline of an insider becoming an outsider, a la Paul Atreides.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Nix is extremely diligent in creating a universe where women and men are equal, and skin color is unimportant. Princes are male or female, the Emperor has the title "Hierself", humans are every color along the spectrum. Hell, even one Prince's concubines are both male and female, and he or she enjoys them all (yay, bisexual exploitation). Too bad the male nouns and pronouns were kept to describe everyone, from Prince to Emperor to naval cadets addressing all officers as "sir", Battlestar Galactica-style.

Casting Call:

Lee Min Ho as Khemri

Because y'all, I don't even know who to cast.

Relationship Status: You've Changed

Like I said earlier, I absolutely adore Garth Nix and was super excited to see his latest. Techy science fiction! A young hero trying to find his way in a strange world! But something about our relationship has changed, and I don't think it's me. This book just wasn't up to my high expectations, and it's not fair to us for me to settle and accept that it's let itself go. I think anyone deserves better than that.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Harper Collins. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). A Confusion of Princes is available now.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.