Book Review: Null States
For my latest review, I am writing about the near future political thriller Null States by Malka Older. If you haven’t read her book Infomocracy why haven’t you?! jk...jk...as the younger set says. Anyway, reading Infomocracy first, while arguably not one percent required, will make Null States far easier to understand and enjoy. So without further ado, here’s my review.
I read Malka Older’s debut novel Infomocracy back in February 2020 as the democratic primary was in full swing. Reading that novel, which is about the political shenanigans happening during a worldwide election, around the same time as the actual factual presidential election made the reading experience even more enjoyable. As good as that debut is, Null States is even better.
I started reading Null States in the aftermath of the last presidential election. One of the coolest things about Malka’s writing is that it seems both timely and prescient. The happenings that took place in DC on January 6, 2021 might’ve been lifted straight from the pages of her novels. This makes her books all the more chilling and, in some ways, a little hopeful.
One criticism I’ve read of Null States is that the characters are a little flat. I felt this way myself after reading Infomocracy. After reading Null States, I’ve reevaluated that critique as I don’t think it’s valid. The leading players in Infomocracy all have roles in Null States. I remember each character distinctly from the previous book. I especially relish the political operative Roz in Null States and remember her fondly from Infomocracy. Instead, I think the main characters are well characterized for the fast-paced tales of political intrigue Malka spins. Numerous minor characters, many with difficult to pronounce names, might be anything from low-level political analysts to powerful politicians. These characters are meant to add to the milieu of the near future political climate more than anything else and accomplish that task quite well.
Null States is a fast-paced and exciting read, sometimes chilling and often feels prescient. After reading this book, I have put State Tectonics, the last book in the series, on my must-read list for 2021.