Feb 29
2024

New York Times on Exordia

Exordia by Seth Dickinson

“EXORDIA is Seth Dickinson’s fourth novel and first work of science fiction, following three installments of the excellent Baru Cormorant fantasy series, and it revisits many of those novels’ themes and structures: empire, war and sacrifice.

Set in 2013, “Exordia” is a first-contact story: Anna, a Kurdish survivor of genocide who is fostered in the United States, meets a many-headed snake alien named Ssrin in Central Park. Anna and Ssrin become friends and roommates; Ssrin explains that she comes from a galaxy-conquering empire called the Exordia, and needs Anna’s help to rebel against it.

Anna, Dickinson writes, “is all in, the way only a woman chased out of her home by sarin gas can be all in. Her adult life began at age 7, with an act of alien intrusion, with the roar of Saddam’s helicopters. This is nothing new to her. She’s ready to risk it all, because no part of her life since that first alien invasion has felt real.”

There is a version of this book that might be more palatable to a broad readership: a version in which a traumatized war orphan’s friendship with a warmongering alien heals and redeems them both. This is very decisively not that book. It deliberately withholds what its first three chapters (and dust jacket) seem to promise: a “narratively complete” story centering Anna and Ssrin. Instead, “Exordia” compounds, enlarges and repeats their wounds — the ones inflicted on them, and the ones they inflict on the world and each other — as Dickinson uses a host of other characters to scrutinize ethics, fractal mathematics, theoretical physics and the military-industrial complexes of several nations. The result is agonizing and mesmerizing, a devastating and extraordinary achievement, as well as dizzyingly unsatisfying, given where it ends.

The publisher of “Exordia” claims it is a stand-alone novel. This is baffling. If you stop a play after its first act, it does not become a one-act play. “Exordia” is structured and paced like Book 1 of a series; Dickinson has stated in interviews that a sequel is “absolutely” intended. The word “Exordia” itself — the plural of “exordium” — suggests beginnings and introductions, a throat-clearing before the main work, and I sincerely hope Dickinson gets the opportunity to continue it.” — New York Times

Feb 13
2024

Reactor on Exordia

Exordia by Seth Dickinson

“Where Dickinson succeeds—where he turns Exordia into a truly exhilarating, dizzying work—is that he can take these human stories, human choices on the personal and on the international scale, and set them against a deeply alien intelligence.

Exordia is a book that grabs your attention and doesn’t let it go: Dickinson creates a world that feels twice as vivid as normal and does it without ever slowing down the frenetic pace of the plot. It can be a lot to handle—Exordia certainly isn’t light bedside reading—but it’s an incredible work and an enthralling way to kick off your 2024 reading.” — Reactor (formerly Tor.com)

Feb 6
2024

BookPage on Exordia

Exordia by Seth Dickinson

“Dickinson has crafted a number of very human stories in a book ostensibly about aliens. Trauma, morality in the face of disaster, forgiveness, guilt, lost love and the bond between parents and children all find their way to the page. Yes, these people are witnessing and trying to survive the craziest moment in the history of Earth, but their connections to one another ring true.

While some may wish it spent as much time with its characters as it does exploring its many fascinating ideas, Exordia is undoubtedly impressive. But there’s no question that it will be many sci-fi fans’ favorite book of the year, especially those willing to surrender to it, and be consumed.” — BookPage

Jan 23
2024

Library Journal on Exordia

Exordia by Seth Dickinson

“Recently dumped by her boyfriend and fired, Anna, a Kurdish refugee, already has enough to deal with before her close encounter with the wounded alien on her kitchen floor. Being that he’s an officer in the Joint Special Operations Command, Erik’s life mission is to bring order to chaos, and he’s sorely tested as he investigates what appears to be an alien starship. Clayton schemes in the background, willing to do anything to protect humanity. Hostile first contact brings these characters together, and then it’s a race against the clock to prevent nuclear Armageddon. Violent, vivid, vicious—this is an innovative military, sci-fi thriller that is equal parts action and introspection. It’s conceptually profound and touches upon many ethical and metaphysical subjects, including a peek into Zoroastrianism and a unique interpretation of souls. This doesn’t necessarily make for easy reading, but there’s no denying the intelligence in the writing.

VERDICT This stand-alone story from Dickinson (The Tyrant Baru Cormorant) thrives on the unexpected, and while the characters aren’t necessarily likable, the way they wrestle with doing the right thing versus doing the hard thing is authentic and thought-provoking.” — Library Journal

Jan 16
2024

Scientific American on Exordia

Exordia by Seth Dickinson

“In Seth Dickinson’s 2015 debut novel, The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a fiercely willful woman from a colonized island plots her revenge against a brutal empire. This fascination with weighing the value of specific lives against a greater good also powers his new book, a mind-shredding first-contact epic. A spaceship or weapon or something has appeared in Kurdistan, where its mysteries get puzzled over by a sprawling cast. There are nukes, alien brain locks, intergalactic warfare and a scope that keeps expanding long after the stakes seem clear. This thrilling novel grips hardest when Dickinson’s characters must reason through the science of seemingly impossible phenomena.” — Scientific American

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