I can't tell you how many times I've picked this book up, read the first few pages and tossed it aside.
Something about those first few pages is difficult to overcome and I know I'm not the only one. Maybe it's folks around my age (pushing 40) who all seem to uniformly find the same annoyance in a snarky, smart-mouthed protagonist that feels very contemporary (if not dated) for a fantastical setting that kills our interest. Or, for me, the sorta grimdark setting of the Tomb of the Ninth.
In a way, it felt like a Nick Lutsko Spirit Halloween video with no tongues in cheeks.
If I'm honest, I can't tell you why I picked it up again. It's been recommended to me dozens of times now, and I've unknowingly bought it twice in different formats. All of my desired library holds were a few weeks out, so I sorta just said, “fine, I'll try this again until one of the holds comes through.”
Sure enough, there was that beginning again where we meet the titular Gideon and it's the same cringe epic bacon guy sort of humor that made me hate ‘The Martian' in all of its glory. Along with a comically dark setting of some sort of tomb planet with shambling skeletons and dark dungeons. Sigh.
But, I kept going. This book gets hyped a lot for queer representation, and any cynicism about this sort of melts away because Gideon is absolutely queer, but done in a way where it's very matter-of-fact. Gideon is just Gideon, being queer is just a part of the character.
See, the thing is, Gideon is also really annoying. One of the drawbacks of having an obnoxious lead is you're gonna turn some people away. That's what happened to me. Then you start to see more of Gideon, and that everyone is annoyed by Gideon and a lot of the goofy, aloof behavior is a defense mechanism from a lifetime of trauma.
You really, really need to push past those initial annoyances, though, because once you do, everything opens up.
The story winds itself around in all sorts of interesting ways, the characters are all mashed together, pit against each other and forced to cope with their own shortcomings in unique ways and while there's a relatively massive bodycount for named characters here, never did I find myself wanting to put this book aside after the story got going.
In places, the diction can feel clunky in trying to illustrate this realm as a science fantasy one, especially considering Gideon is our anchor to things and Gideon's link to everything is comic books and skin mags. Still, the occasional five-dollar word is easy enough to gloss over considering how well everything else flows.
This is a special book and if you're like me and struggled with the beginning, it's worth pushing further into before writing it off.