These are some of the sci-fi books I read in 2019. I’m not going to specify how for each one but they are all gay as hell in various ways, which is honestly just how I think space is going to be for us when we finally get there. Or at least, I sure hope.
The Disasters by M.K. England takes one of my favorite tropes, a ragtag bunch of outcasts who circumstances force together must fight for their survival and learn to trust and love each other along the way, and does it with charm, humor, and a bunch of inclusivity that to me, never feels forced. It’s not a super deep novel but it is a ton of fun and tugs the heartstrings a time or two.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. Ambassador Mahit Dzmare is from a small collection of space stations. She’s been assigned to the expansion happy Teixcalaanli Empire. The community she is from is so small that it cannot afford to lose the knowledge and experience of previous generations, so certain people are implanted with devices that record their memories and personalities, which can be passed on to the next generation. However, the previous ambassador to the Teixcalaanli Empire hadn’t visited home in many years and they did not have a recent recording when he died. So Mahit is sent to her new post with memories nearly 20 years out of date and which a filled with a deep appreciation for the culture she must prevent from swallowing her own. But cultural imperialism is hard to resist when you’re beginning to fall for it too.
Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear. Haimey, her crew member Connla, and their AI, Singer are salvagers. They travel the scars of interstellar travel, looking for ships that didn’t make it through White Space back into the universe. They find something disturbing and are almost immediately attacked by space pirates. I loved the world building in this one, it made space seem vast and strange and terrifying and wonderful, which is my favorite way for space to be. There are also bonus space cats!
The Sol Majestic by Ferrett Steinmetz. Kenna’s family are philosophers. They have, in the past, counselled kings and empires. But Kenna can’t find his philosophy. Most because all he can think about is how hungry he is. So when he comes to a space station with a famous restaurant that is booked out for years but that, each day, gives away the chance for one lucky customer to dine at their restaurant, Kenna takes his chance. He’s thrust into a world he could never have dreamed of, full of amazing new food, new friends who soon come to mean the world to him, and a new way of looking at life. This book is charming, sweet, and full of what I like to call Space!Feels!
Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone. Vivian Liao is a tech genius who has pissed off the government. She’s decided to go into hiding but before she does, she wants to stick it to the government one last time. In the midst of a server farm, she’s whisked away by a mysterious glowing figure, transported instantly to a space station under siege, where she has to dodge killer robots and fight alongside a cyborg monk. The book spans galaxies, includes giant spiders who battle by dancing, and is just generally a whole lot of fun. And shockingly un-male-gaze-y for a book with a sexually active lesbian main character written by a (as far as I know) cis dude.
The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling. The only one on the list I didn’t like! I’ve seen other reviews call this the horror version of The Martian and while I get why once somebody else said it, it never reminded me of The Martian because the science is SO BAD. And the characters constantly make very stupid choices. They’re not forced by circumstance into reckless or ridiculous actions, they, time and again, choose to do the stupidest thing possible. It’s very annoying and wasted all the good will that I went into this book, about queer WOC, with.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. Ooooh, boy, what a wild ride. Space necromancers! Lesbian space necromancers! Zombies! Secret keys and hidden doors! Repressed feelings and noble sacrifices! Sass! Sass for days! Sword fights and battles of wits! It’s so weird and it’s so good and it’s so much fun.
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers. Humanity sends explorers into space. We seemed to have learned a few lessons from our time on Earth and send them with a mandate to harm nothing, change nothing, to observe and catalog and learn. The team travel form world to world, sleeping between each stop, transforming into something suited to each new planet. The ice world sees antifreeze in their blood, the sun drenched world sees reflective skin. Each new world brings a new change. But when the message from Earth begin to change and then stop all together, what responsibilities do our explorers have?
A Big Ship at the Edge of the Galaxy by Alex White. We start as we began, with a ragtag space crew. This one blends big ass space ships with fantasy and humor and characters who both want to hug and punch each other. There’s a washed up reality star, a hot-shot racer, a possibly murderous mechanic, and a world weary captain, among others. The fight amonsgt themselves but they also are big damn heroes. Both this and it’s sequel are a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to the final book in the trilogy later next year.