ARC Review: Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh

Today I have an advanced reader copy (ARC) review of SOME DESPERATE GLORY by Emily Tesh. It’s a debut, standalone, science fiction novel that tackles topics of revenge, control, and artificial intelligence decision making.

Author: Emily Tesh
Series: None
Age Category: New Adult/Adult
Publisher: Tordotcom
Publish Date: April 11, 2023
Print Length: 448

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Official Synopsis

While we live, the enemy shall fear us.

Since she was born, Kyr has trained for the day she can avenge the murder of planet Earth. Raised in the bowels of Gaea Station alongside the last scraps of humanity, she readies herself to face the Wisdom, the powerful, reality-shaping weapon that gave the majoda their victory over humanity.

They are what’s left. They are what must survive. Kyr is one of the best warriors of her generation, the sword of a dead planet. When Command assigns her brother to certain death and relegates her to Nursery to bear sons until she dies trying, she knows she must take humanity’s revenge into her own hands.

Alongside her brother’s brilliant but seditious friend and a lonely, captive alien, Kyr escapes from everything she’s known into a universe far more complicated than she was taught and far more wondrous than she could have imagined.

My Review

I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.

SOME DESPERATE GLORY is a stand-alone science fiction novel about the lengths humanity will go to seek revenge. This story follows Kyr, the female main character, on board Gaea Station where she trained through young adulthood to carry on avenging the human race. She awaits her final assignment, which she will carry out for the rest of her life. Kyr is a warbreed, specifically bred to be large and strong. So she expects an assignment to an action post. But behind-the-scene events result in an unexpected assignment to Nursery. There she is expected to produce babies to carry on the species and ultimately annihilate the majoda, who carried out the demise of humanity. However, a series of events lead to Kyr’s avoidance of Nursery, catapulting her off of Gaea and onto an adventure she never anticipated.

The story is mainly through Kyr’s point of view. But some information is presented in a textbook-like format to provide the reader with an anthropological point of view. The voice in those sections analyzes humanity’s general propensity toward war and a host of other semi-philosophical angles. I actually found those parts the most interesting because I felt they summarized the various themes presented in SOME DESPERATE GLORY.

Two themes dominate this story. The first is revenge and how strong of a driving force that is to sway emotions and allegiance. Revenge is not usually a good way to solve a problem. But it’s especially dangerous when wielded by those who crave control, particularly in an isolated environment. The second predominant theme is whether artificial intelligence should be used to play god. The Wisdom, created by the majoda, is a machine that runs scenarios about what is best for the universe. Should we use AI to make our decisions? Or should the amalgam of races throughout the universe decide on their own fates, however good or bad the outcome?

Overall, this was an entertaining introduction back into science fiction for me. But sometimes I skimmed the text because I wasn’t interested in all of the tech aspects. (Though, for sci-fi, it’s relatively light on descriptions of weapons and ship systems.) I also got a little bored with the various reality iterations. Kyr definitely experienced character growth, but for some reason I didn’t connect with her as much as I expected to. Rather, I was more sympathetic to the alien she picked up along the way.

The biggest sticking point for me, though, is that SOME DESPERATE GLORY tried to bite off more than it could chew. It tries to tackle a lot of different themes. Some it does well, like the revenge and AI elements and learning to think for oneself. It also explores the mental strain of needing to hide one’s sexuality when one’s community frowns upon queerness due to the need to propagate one’s species. But there is also the incorporation of systemic racism and default White-ness, which Kyr recognizes near the end of the book and felt sort of like an afterthought. There is also mention of the decision to abort female fetuses so that there are more males to fight for the cause. This was also relatively unexplored territory.

Despite this, I still recommend SOME DESPERATE GLORY for those who prefer lighter science fiction fare in terms of technical descriptions. Also keep in mind that I am a critical person. Themes that I thought were relatively weak might not seem as such to other readers. SOME DESPERATE GLORY is an exploration of whether artificial intelligence should have the responsibility of deciding the future and whether revenge is the best way to move forward.

Rating: 3.5
Content warnings: blood, death, xenophobia, genocide, suicide, homophobia (homomisia, queermisia), mentions of sexual assault/rape of minor, mention of forced abortion
Reading format: Kindle e-book

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I’m always interested in new Science Fiction especially stand alone. This one does sound interesting.

I’m hoping to read this next month, and I’m very curious to see how she incorporates all those themes. Thanks for sharing!

This was such a wonderfully written review. Honestly, one of the reasons that I find myself uninterested in classic sci-fi is due to the intense amount of technical information that’s often included. I’d rather have more story and less description of ship/weapons/etc. So, that aspect definitely appeals to me. However, it does sound like it’s a lot of content packed into just a stand-alone book. I’m not entirely sure whether it’s one I’d pick up or not, but I sure did enjoy your thoughts!

Hmmm. This sounds really interesting, and I love that it’s a standalone. I think it’s coming in one of my book boxes. So, I’ll probably end up reading it.

I’ve been waiting to read to your review before I start this book but I actually just listened to a bit of it a couple of hours before reading this.. Nice review Celeste… It definitely gives me an idea of what to expect and what not to. I’m interested to see how I’ll feel about the themes because I’m usually quite fond of very thematic books. I do only have the audiobook though, so I’m definitely gonna keep coming back to your review for the spellings…

[…] my friend Celeste has explained very well in her thoughtful review, the other major themes of the book are revenge and the presence of an omnipotent/omniscient AI […]