I first read Gideon the Ninth in the summer of 2020, maybe a month after my dad had died suddenly and also, of course, in the middle of a deadly global pandemic. In that moment, I wasn’t actively seeking out material that reflected that part of my lived experience. Mostly, I saw “lesbians” “swords” and “memes” and thought “yes please!” Quickly, the books captured my heart and imagination. But not until later, reading, “As Yet Unsent: Cohort Intelligence Files” the bonus chapter released with the paperback edition of sequel, Harrow the Ninth, that I began to think of the series as an evolving inquiry into the nature of death and dying, what it means to be left behind. And speaking from experience, one thing is absolutely clear: Tamsyn Muir understood the fucking assignment.
Since then, I’ve bought and shelved and sworn to read so many books about death. Critically acclaimed books! Books with great reviews! Not a one has actually made it to the top of the stack. I’m not avoiding them because I worry that I won’t be able to handle reading about death. I just worry none of these books will do it justice. Losing someone, especially when you’re young and it seems like everyone else is carrying on happily with all their loved ones, or maybe just down a grandparent or two, will make you feel like a tragic hero. I felt (feel?) so special in the worst kind of way. What could Joan Didion have to say that I don’t already know?