Victories Greater Than Death | Book Review

Friday 16 October 2020

 Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders is about a young woman named Tina who always knew she was meant for bigger things. She just happens to be the clone of the most brilliant alien commander in the whole universe. She’s tired of waiting to be swept up by the alien fleet, but when her wish comes true she may just find she’s in over her head. But with her best friend by her side as well as a group of brilliant earthlings, she may find a way to save the day.

I got this as an advanced reading copy thanks to Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. So let me be perfectly honest and say that this was a good book just begging to be great.

There was quite a bit I liked about Victories Greater Than Death so let me start with that before I get critical. I liked the main story. The idea behind a larger alien fleet (akin to Starfleet) in a battle against a group whose main goal is the genocide of anyone not like them is a very engaging plot. The huge universe Charlie Jane Anders built had more potential than almost anything I’ve ever read before.

The main issue with this book was that it felt cluttered. It felt like Anders was trying to do too much. It felt like this should have been a 500+ page book but it had to be cut down to under 300 pages. Because of this, the two main parts of the story felt disjointed. We had the character driven elements, how the earthlings got along and became friends, and we had the bigger story of good vs. evil. But the main focus of the story was so heavy on the character elements that the battle against The Compassion (the bad guys) felt like it was tacked on as an afterthought. This should have been a book like The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet which was more character driven and you knew it was a character driven story going in. 

Also, it was weird that the bad guys kept on showing up but the good guys couldn't get back up to save their lives. In fact, the good side seemed like a group of inept idiots. The Compassion could show up any place at any time but the heroes couldn't find anyone from their group to help? Even if there was a line of exposition that explains this, it's still bad. You can't expect me to imagine a Star Fleet type group that can't muster even one ship to help.

Let's make this positive! So more good stuff. The aliens had a world where saying your pronouns when you introduce yourself to someone is commonplace.  I liked that as it helped normalize the giving of pronouns AND it makes perfect sense because there are so many alien species that were this real, it’d be impossible to memorize every alien species genders. I believe anything that normalizes that in our modern culture is a positive. If it matters to you, you should give your pronouns to those you meet and it should be a normal thing. 

Back to what needed work. Parts of the book were too “infodumpy.” There are so many different alien species and characters that it became hard to remember anything without going back to the beginning of the book to remember it all. Even the earthlings were hard to follow and there were only a handful of them. There was a list of things at the end of the book but it killed the pace of the book having to go back and check stuff. I've read tome sized epic fantasy books that were less confusing. 

Also, we have this group battling against bad guys who want to commit genocide on a level never seen before. But Tina starts having second thoughts about killing. What a great idea! You're fighting against actual evil, a group who would kill billions if they got the chance, and you decide you no longer want to kill. It's stupid and unreasonable. 

Also, there were times when the earthlings were all a bit extra. Rachel could have been a great example of mental health issues but her mental problems were never properly explored so she just came across as the weird kid. Rachel disappears for chapters at a time because of her mental health issues and there's a golden opportunity to talk about them, but nope, she's just the weirdo. It could have been a great excuse to talk about anxiety or depression or autism or anything that could cause her to act the way she does. Unfortunately Rachel comes across as a trope instead of a lesson.

Normally when I have this much negative to say about a book, it would lead to either a critically low score or a DNF. But something kept me coming back to find out how everything ends and that’s what kept my score from dipping lower. I kept picking it up over and over again even though I was frustrated.

This book needs better editing. It needed to be passed by a writing group first. It needed some help because there’s a great story in here somewhere, but one too many issues kept this story from shinning. 

This book could have been great. But it's just mediocre at best.

Victories Greater Than Death gets a 5.5 out of 11

I'd like to thank Net Galley for the opportunity to read and ARC of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This book comes out on April 13th, 2021.

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