One Good Thing: The wonderful sci-fi novel A Memory Called Empire makes diplomacy enthralling

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The cover illustration from Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire depicts a young woman meeting a very old emperor. | Tor Books

This award-winning book is equal parts Game of Thrones, Cold War realpolitik, anti-colonialist tale, and Star Wars prequel.

One Good Thing is Vox’s recommendations series. In each edition, we’ll tell you about something from the world of culture that we think you should check out.

Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire, which recently won the Best Novel award at science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards, reads like its author was simultaneously influenced by Game of Thrones, histories of the Cold War, various anti-colonialism writings, and the Star Wars prequels. It’s a grand, galaxy-spanning space opera that is mostly about diplomacy. Or, if you prefer, it’s an impressively wonky novel about galactic geopolitics that just happens to feature spaceships and aliens. I love it.

It’s difficult to talk about A Memory Called Empire without spoiling some of its best surprises because the core of the book sounds impossibly dry. But let me give it a shot anyway, because the best way to read this book is to know almost nothing about…



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