This is one of those books where I wonder if the entire reason the title was only chosen to set up an obvious but still kind of funny gag that goes entirely unacknowledged in the book. You Sexy Thing is actually the name of a bioship, basically an organic, kind of sentient spaceship; it’s current owner, slightly mysterious uber wealthy Arpat Takraven, set a password that’s incredibly obvious given the ship’s name, but there’s never any explanation for the origins of the ship’s name or the password, the directive of which is also kind of part of the joke, but not very funny to Niko Larsen and her crew who end up aboard without Arpat when the space station Niko had restaurant at which may have been good enough to possibly win a Nikkelin Orb (another, less obvious pun) is attacked. This leads to eventually Thing, Niko, and her crew being captured by the malicious pirate Tubal Last. All of this goes back to Niko and a good chunk of her crew’s past as soldiers of the Holy Hive Mind, which they managed to escape by claiming Niko is an artists (medium: food) and thus not an option for absorption into the collective.
Overall, this was an entertaining read, but the chef-fy part is pretty disconnected to the rest of the adventure; Dabry, the lieutenant basically, is actually the one who demonstrates most of the culinary interest and artistry; he says Niko’s pretty good but just doesn’t love it the way he does, but there’s no evidence of Niko every doing any cooking; she’s the one doing the planning and commanding when the trouble starts. The whole found family thing is pretty evident since most of Niko’s crew came with her from their previous life, with two notable exceptions: Millie and Atalanta. Millie is some sort of bird-creature who happens to be the pastry chef, and Atalanta arrives in a stasis crate with no idea why she was sent to Niko and Niko doesn’t know either. All Atalanta knows is that she’s an Imperial Heir of the Empress of Pax, so that means Niko’s got to get her home safely to find out from the Empress why one of her Heirs might have been sent under mysterious circumstances to Niko. Their part in escaping the pirate part of the adventure eventually come back to their not being as much a part of the crew, and Millie’s role in particular is never really resolved (and this isn’t the only time this happens either).
The whole things feels very closely related to Becky Chambers (queer and mixed family goings on), Nnedi Orkorafor (living ship and sentient invertebrates), and Martha Wells (unwilling hero, and lots of snark). I’m not complaining exactly, but this does explain the disconnects that certain parts of the story and certain characters seem to have. The restaurant stuff at the beginning that gets brough up pretty consistently throughout is not very developed as either a setting or as Niko’s place; Talon and Thorne (twin were-lions) are only there to be energetic annoyances and then to serve as a demo for something that all the characters are threatened with at one point; Gio has virtually no presence other than he’s essentially an ape-like individual who uses sign language, and might be into weapons; Petalia suddenly becomes hugely important at the end of the adventure but there’s hardly any introduction to them or much hint of their importance until they personally appear 2/3s of the way into the novel. Thing (the ship) itself has as much personality (definitely more New Fish than ART) or maybe slightly more than Skidoo who is basically a space octopus that is into physical touch and enjoyment of sensation, and there’s probably a few more that I’m just not thinking of right this second.
There are also some hints at the end that there could be a continuation of the group’s adventures, a lot to do with Lassite’s constant thoughts and comments about his prophesies, and I’d be willing to see that but it’d be nice to have a little more newness and connection between the three main acts of the story.