On the back of a review by Terence Eden (who somehow manages to blog every day about a wide range of interesting things!), I picked up Becky Chambers’ debut novel. I wasn’t sure entirely what to expect of the book, but having read the first one, I’m now well into the third book in the series.
The book is marked as sci-fi, but it’s probably better considered speculative philosophical fiction. Yes, there are your typical space fantasy elements — amazing aliens! fancy technology! space war! — but it seems to me that the book is more interested in exploring the interpersonal dynamics and providing analogies for acceptance of diversity, particularly in relation to gender. In the space fantasy milieu, Chambers has crafted aliens with non-discrete genders — and then just made this a completely normal part of the world for her characters. In other words, she has — at least in this regard! — built a utopian world.
There is some fun sci-fi stuff in the novel, too. I enjoyed the considerations of whether an AGI, being sentient, is therefore alive, and should be apportioned the same rights and freedoms as any other sentient being. (Chambers dives into this a lot more in the sequel).
There are distinct elements of Alan Dean Foster’s worldbuilding, and elements of The Expanse in here too — but this novel does stand on its own merits. It’s not a heavy read, but it’s also not something to just skim over. Worth a read!