My May Reading Log

The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum is set in a far future in a semi-utopian habitat where people (I assume humans) have two genders, Vail (ve, vir) and Staid (ze, zir); they still use the terms “Mother” and “Father” but either gender can bear children after suitable body modification. Also, most people have multiple bodies, usually three, which can all operate independently but know what the other bodies are doing and sensing. Everyone is linked into The Feed, in which all people can watch what any other people are doing at any time, and comment positively or negatively in ways that impact one’s social status; spaces with no access to The Feed are rare. Vails and Staids are expected to behave in certain set ways, and societal disapproval seems to keep this fairly rigid. Until, of course The Unraveling of the title. The story follows a Staid child named Fift, who does not, cannot, follow expectations despite wanting to do so in order to please zir parents and preserve zir familial Cohort. As a result, things change; I won’t spoil exact events since this is a relatively new book, but the scope encompasses not only gender but the disruptions of art, how and why societies change, and how individual activists, and groups with divergent opinions, can all make a difference; that includes people who make vids (Clip Operas) and write fanfiction (Real People Fiction in this story). It was lovely to read some science fiction that really made me work to get into the world, at least for the first few pages; Rosenbaum did a splendid job with worldbuilding that was never ponderous or didactic.

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole is a contemporary romance in which a penniless graduate student in Public Health, Naledi, is wooed by Thabiso, crown prince of the fictional African country of Thesolo. The twist is that Naledi was betrothed to him as a child, but due to her parents’ deaths, is ignorant of this fact and has been raised in a series of New York foster homes. Plot elements include royalty in disguise, rich man/poor woman, and the difficulty Naledi in particular has in truly opening herself emotionally to anyone after a life of constantly losing the people she loves; as well as learning from her relationship with Thabiso, Ledi learns and grows in her relationship with her flighty, needy best friend, Portia. I loved secondary character Likotsi, Thabiso’s snappily dressed lesbian personal assistant, and hope she’s being set up for her own happy ending.

The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older is a mystery set in a gas giant-circling habitat, featuring a lesbian detective and her former lover who’s now an academic specializing in the lost environments of Earth through literature (at one point, she’s studying Watership Down by Richard Adams, with its meticulous descriptions of flora known to rabbits). There’s a lowkey second chance romance woven into what, at first, seems like a locked room murder mystery but turns out to be much more complicated and unexpected. There’s a thematic undercurrent relating to how humans might cope with and adapt to have destroyed their home planet and left it behind.

Sorry If You’re Starstruck by heyjupiter is alternate universe fanfiction in which Tony Stark is a movie director and Bruce Banner wrote a wildly successful series of children’s books. While recovering from an accident, Tony gets treatment for addiction and reads Bruce’s books, and after a rocky start, the reclusive author comes to visit him. There are no superheroes in this world; Bruce’s transformations into Hulk are seamlessly redrawn as dissociative identity disorder, and Tony is Hollywood royalty instead of a technological pioneer. It’s a lovely friends-to-lovers romance.

My May TBR Challenge book was The Dos and Donuts of Love by Adiba Jaigirdar.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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