Author: Cassandra Khaw
Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Print Length: 288 pages
Read Date(s): August 31, 2021 – September 4, 2021
A diverse team of broken, diminished former criminals get back together to solve the mystery of their last, disastrous mission and to rescue a missing and much-changed comrade… but they’re not the only ones in pursuit of the secret at the heart of the planet Dimmuborgir. The highly-evolved AI of the universe have their own agenda and will do whatever it takes to keep humans from ever controlling the universe again. This band of dangerous women, half-clone and half-machine, must battle their own traumas and a universe of sapient ageships who want them dead, in order to settle their affairs once and for all.
Cassandra Khaw’s debut novel is a page-turning exploration of humans and machines that is perfect for readers of Ann Leckie, Ursula Le Guin, and Kameron Hurley.
***Thank you to NetGalley and Erewhon Books for a copy of the book. The review contains my honest assessment and thoughts about the book.***
I was so excited to be approved for the e-ARC of this book because the synopsis sounded exciting and intriguing. Who wouldn’t want to read a book about cyborg, lesbian mercenaries battling against sentient spaceships? Apparently me. I struggled with this book from the very beginning because of the writing style. It seemed like the author had a thesaurus handy when writing the book because the words and language used were incredibly complex. It honestly felt like the author took a list of SAT words and scattered them throughout the book. This made the writing incredibly dense and difficult to read. As the story progressed, I enjoyed it more, most likely because I became a little more accustomed to the writing, but I never felt truly engaged in the story.
It also didn’t help that the plot was nebulous and seemingly nonexistent for most of the book. The first 2/3 of the book focused on collecting the cast together without any real explanation for why it was necessary. Having finished the book, I’m still not 100% sure why it devoted so much time to introducing the characters at the expense of moving the plot forward at a more rapid pace. The action in the last third of the book was interesting, but the ending of the story felt like it was lacking a real climax and instead was all build up with little payoff. I walked away from the book feeling unsatisfied with the end, which is what ultimately kept this book from reaching three stars for me.
The world of this story was fascinating, and I enjoyed the world-building that was done. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough of it. There was very little information about the society or how the AI ships became so powerful. There was also very little information about the humans or how/why the cyborgs became what they were. I would have loved to know more about all of those things and enjoyed the information that was available. The author did a good job of bringing the AI to life, and I would have loved to see their vision of the broader society in which this story was set.
There were some great character moments throughout the story that allowed for the exploration of some really interesting themes. I didn’t find the characters themselves to be very relatable, but their circumstances provided a good backdrop for analyzing thoughts related to gender, love, death, and what it means to be human. The tackling of transhumanism and its impacts on the characters was one of the most interesting things about this book.
Overall, this book was not a very good fit for me. If you like your science fiction filled with dense writing, lots of profanity, complete immersion with little explanation, and slower in pace, you may like this one more than I did. I couldn’t really get past the writing style and thin plot. Therefore, I rate this 2 out of 5 stars.