Ymir by Rich Larson
Publication Date: June 12th, 2022
Paperback. 416 pages.
"A gripping, far-future retelling of Beowulf from an award-winning author, perfect for fans of Richard K. Morgan
Yorick never wanted to see his homeworld again. He left Ymir two decades ago, with half his face blown off and no love lost for the place. But when his employer's mines are threatened by a vicious alien machine, Yorick is shipped back home to hunt it.
All he wants is to do his job and get out. Instead, Yorick is pulled into a revolution brewing beneath Ymir's frozen surface, led by the very last person he wanted to see again -- the brother who sent him off in pieces twenty years ago."
Ymir was a really exciting and unexpected read that sucked me in far more than I expected it to. It's a grim, unpredictable, and somewhat foreboding book featuring some truly intriguing world-building. This is also one of those books that’s a little difficult to review for me because it has such a distinct and unique world that’s hard to describe without more context, but I’ll do my best!
The story takes place on an alien planet called Ymir, a frozen wasteland of sorts where what appear to be genetically modified humans live and work primarily as miners mining resources for the Company. The Company, naturally, doesn’t really care about it’s workers or their safety, only the profit of the mining resources, and this has left many workers angry and wanting change. Unfortunately for the Company, monstrous alien beasts known as grendels often inhabit the mines and disrupt the work of miners by attacking and killing them, which prompts the Company to hire humans such as our protagonist Yorick who kills grendels for a living.
Things kick off in Ymir when Yorick is sent by the Company back to Ymir where he grew up in order to ride the mines of a new grendel that has massacred some miners. Prior to this, Yorick has spent most of his time hunting grendels in off world locations far from Ymir and is furious at being sent back to his home planet, somewhere he never wanted to return to. Once there, however, he realizes that there is some sort of rebellion brewing and he reluctantly gets pulled into things, which is also where he rediscovers his brother whom he left on pretty bad terms with all those years ago and who is the last person he wanted to see.
I think Ymir did a great job of dropping readers into a world where you don’t really know much of anything and still managing to tell it in a way that’s easy enough to follow and allowed for me to really engage with the story and connect with it from the start, something that I’ve found not all books are great at doing. I really loved every opportunity to learn more about all the different little details and aspects of this world, especially with the somewhat alien and futuristic atmosphere that encompasses this story. For instance, there are a lot of different modifications that humans can get for a variety of uses that were interesting to read about, and even the drugs used on this planet had their own ways of working and affecting people, all of which really contributed to world-building and I had a great time exploring. I really appreciated learning about this world and I honestly would love to read something that kind of dives deeper into this world or explains a bit more about the backstory, like a bonus story of some sort to get deeper into things.
Yorick is someone who doesn’t seem to really have a lot motivating him in life and instead seems to mainly just exist and work rather than really live. He has a bit of a drug problem and seems to struggle mentally and emotionally with his life and circumstances. I found this element of Yorick’s personality really compelling in seeing how it would play into the story and how it might lead to his own change. I liked getting to accompany Yorick on a lot of important journeys he embarked upon as well, from coming to terms with his childhood on Ymir to getting reacquainted with his brother and dealing with the hostility that exists between them. We really get to see Yorick evolve over the course of the story and learn how to handle his various internal and external struggles, and I think Larson captured these all really well.
In addition to Yorick is a cast of characters that really added to the story and made this story even better. There’s some humor littered throughout from both Yorick and the characters in small moments (and with some dryness) and I loved seeing how unique each person was. The characters we meet are all so different from one another and had such strong personalities that I think really helped to expand the world by kind of seeing who they are, what they do, and what their opinions are on things happening in this world.
The pacing and plotting of Ymir felt very steady overall. I would say it’s a bit of a slower story, although at the same time I feel as though I managed to read through it pretty quickly, which made it feel a bit more fast-paced to me... despite the fact that I still wouldn't consider it that fast-paced, which I understand sounds a bit confusing. It’s not an action-packed story for the most part and is instead more centered around Yorick and his coming back to grips with this world and meeting both new and old people, while also focusing heavily on Ymir and the tensions brewing amidst the working and living conditions of the people there.
Overall, I was really surprised by Ymir and found it extremely engaging, unique, and fresh. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, as I’ve probably mentioned quite a number of times. It’s not that I’m not reading at all, but rather that books just haven’t really been grabbing me as much lately and I was so happy to find that Ymir really captured me in a way that I didn’t expect. It didn’t feel like I was reading something that had been rehashed over and over again already, and I find that the best and most refreshing part of this book. For anyone who may read this book, I would just say to be aware going into it that things might be a little confusing at first and at various points in the story, but also know that it will still grab you and things will come together. Larson does a really great job of creating a little bit of a path through the dense forest of this new world that really allows you to follow along without giving everything away or leaving too much out of sight.
I've given Ymir 4.25 stars! I really enjoyed this story and my first experience with Rich Larson's writing and I now intend to go search out some of his backlist to check out. If you're looking for a unique sci-fi, Ymir is a perfect pick.
*I received a copy of Ymir courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*