Review: Tone of Voice

37508432Tone of Voice by Kaia Sønderby

Genre: Science Fiction
Release date: May 1st 2018 by Going to Mars
Purchase: Amazon
Representation: #ownvoices autistic bisexual polyamorous female lead, nonbinary side character, sapphic side character

This review originally appeared on The Lesbrary on March 13th, 2018.

“Things on the inside get easy to see,” Xandri murmured, snuggling contentedly between us, “when you’re always on the outside.”

Back in March, I finally read and reviewed Failure to Communicate, a book that was recommended to me as #ownvoices autistic representation by an indie author. I wasn’t aware before reading the book that other than being autistic, the main character, Xandri, is also bisexual and possibly polyamorous, with one male (Diver) and one female (Kiri) potential LI in the first book. The series also deals with some heavy issues, such as ableism in society, and parental abuse in the main character’s backstory.

I adored the characters and the worldbuiling of Failure to Communicate so much that I immediately rushed to pick up its prequel, Testing Pandora, which takes place a few years earlier. So, obviously, when the second book in the series, Tone of Voice came out earlier this month, I had to pick it up immediately.

A quick, mostly spoiler-free recap of the first book for those who are not familiar with the series: Xandri is a member of a xeno-liasons team on a spaceship called Carpathia, a ship responsible for several successful first contacts with many alien species. Since Xandri is autistic, she had to learn many social clues that came naturally to allistic people, and this constant attention to body language and such actually makes her the best at reading and contacting with new alien species. In the first book, Xandri negotiated an alliance with a notoriously xenophobic species, the Anmerilli, but due to some circumstances she was (frankly, unfairly) forced to leave the Carpathia. The second book picks up a few months later.

Tone of Voice starts with a quick guide to the various alien species present in the books, which was a pretty useful refresher. The species we get to know closely in this book are the Hands and Voices – a symbiotic species where one whale-like alien (a Voice) lives together with several octopus-like creatures (the Hands), which is, of course, a huge oversimplification. I absolutely love the way Kaia handles alien species in her books. While they are usually compared to some Earth animal or concept so that people can more easily imagine them, the alien species are all distinct. What’s more, even within the species there is diversity, different sub-species, and different groups or cultures.

It was great to return to Xandri’s mind and narration. She remains a complex and wonderful protagonist, with quirks and flaws and impulsive decisions, but many more loveable qualities. Xandri is a pacifist at heart: despite not always understanding them, she loves people and she loves all alien species, and she doesn’t want to kill anyone. She feels sorry for those who die, even if it happens in self-defense. And yet, I loved how it was addressed that violence is sometimes necessary, and that violence from oppressors and violence from the oppressed groups defending themselves will never be equally bad: “For once, the voice at the back of my mind had all the sense. If their worst nightmare is the people they want to oppress and kill fighting back against them, then they are the ones with the problem.”

A big change this book brought was the multiple POVs. While the first book was entirely from Xandri’s point of view, in Tone of Voice, the narration kept switching between Xandri and her best friend and potential love interest, Diver. This was great for several reasons, one of them being that it allowed the reader to see the events happening in two places at once – which was pretty useful when there was a lot happening. I felt like the stakes were raised much higher in this book: as we can already see in the blurb, Tone of Voice has two armies with clashing with each other instead in the second half instead of small groups fighting like last time. That also means several deaths in the side cast that sometimes caught me off guard, but it also meant many, many tense moments where I was eager to keep on reading and see what happens.

This book also introduced a nonbinary side character with vi/vir/virself pronouns. I am always happy to see more nonbinary characters, especially once that use “unusual” pronouns, so Jae was a nice surprise.

There is no info about the third book yet, but there’s a lot to look forward to. The ending of Tone of Voice gives the reader some clues on what the main plot is going to be, and I’m also curious if we find out more about Xandri’s past.

My rating: 4 whales 🐋🐋🐋🐋

~ Alexa


Review: The Murderbot Diaries #1-2

32758901Let me introduce you to my new favourite sci-fi novella series with a double review of the first two books.

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

All Systems Red

This book was exactly as good as everyone said it would be, and the reason for that is 80% the main character, Murderbot. About 15% is the rest of the crew, and maybe 5% the plot. Which doesn’t mean the plot is bad, actually – but Murderbot and its personality stole the spotlight so completely that the plot was secondary (tertiary?) to me.

Murderbot (as it calls itself) is officially a SecUnit, a security construct with both organic and inorganic parts that is supposed to have no free will and protect the company’s clients on surveys and missions. In reality, Murderbot has overriden its government module and has complete free will, only it has to hide this fact to avoid being discarded. It does its job more-or-less, but mostly it just likes to be left alone and watch entertainment/serials/the equivalent of TV shows I guess.

And that is only one of Murderbot’s super relatable qualities. I’m not sure saying that a construct has anxiety would be correct, but Murderbot certainly shows the signs. It doesn’t like to talk to humans, and it doesn’t even like humans looking at it.

As for the crew, only a few of them really stand out for me, but I loved their little interactions with each other, their surprise and arguments about Murderbot’s personhood, and the way they (especially Dr. Mensah) made an effort to accomodate Murderbot’s needs and make sure it’s comfortable.

As I said, the plot was secondary to me, but I still enjoyed it and felt the tension at several parts where I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending – I would have to read the sequel to really decide on that – but I really hope that characters from this first book will pop up later on as well.

ALSO: While there is no central romance in this book, several side characters are mentioned to be in polyamorous relationship. In fact, polyamory appears normalised and quite common in this universe, which was amazing to see.

36223859Artificial Condition

I liked protecting people and things. I liked figuring out smart ways to protect people and things. I liked being right.

I loved this book because while it had three humans for Murderbot to protect, it also had several bots that were shown to have emotions and form bonds with each other. And I’m not only talking about ART, the one Murderbot befriends, but also several sidecharacter bots (including a spoiler-y part) who went beyond their orders and programming.

As Murderbot has no interest in sex or romance, there is no main romantic relationship in any of these books, and as Murderbot isn’t human, it can’t really count as nonbinary representation despite having no gender – however, the same isn’t true for side characters. The first book had several polyamorous relationships mentioned, and suggested that polyamory was quite common and normalised in this society. This is also true in this book, where a group marriage with kids is casually brought up at one pont, but what I really liked was that there was a nonbinary character with a gender identity that seemed to be specific to the character’s community. (The pronouns used were te/ter, which is not a pronoun set I’ve ever seen, but I’m always happy to see new pronouns I’m unfamiliar with.)

Again, this book had plenty of relatable anxiety moments from Murderbot; two bots working together and trying to pass as human; bots having emotions and protecting people out of their own will; normalised polyamory and nonbinary genders, and plenty of other great stuff. One of my favourite moments was when Murderbot got overwhelmed/stressed out and its bot friend played the soundtrack of its favourite serial to help, but the book is really full of moments like that.

I don’t think I can ever get enough of Murderbot’s adventures.

~ Alexa


Review: Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation

35235851Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation edited by Phoebe Wagner & Brontë Christopher Wieland

Genre: Solarpunk, Science Fiction, Anthology
Published: August 29th 2017 by Upper Rubber Boot Books
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
(Note: The publisher link has plenty of indie buying options for US&Canada people.)
LGBTQAI+: Several stories have LGBTQAI+ protagonists or side characters, e.g. dust by daniel josé older, you and me and the deep dark sea by jess barber, and others

Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation is the first anthology to broadly collect solarpunk short stories, artwork, and poetry. A new genre for the 21st Century, solarpunk is a revolution against despair. Focusing on solutions to environmental disasters, solarpunk envisions a future of green, sustainable energy used by societies that value inclusiveness, cooperation, and personal freedom.

Edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland, Sunvault focuses on the stories of those inhabiting the crucial moments when great change can be made by people with the right tools; stories of people living during tipping points, and the spaces before and after them; and stories of those who fight to effect change and seek solutions to ecological disruption.

It was very fitting to name this anthology Sunvault, because it was truly a vault of little treasures. A collection of short stories, poems, and even drawings about the sun, plants, water, and different methods to live in peace with our planet. In them, you can find dozens of creative inventions, from solar-powered giraffes to green children. You can find activists who risk their lives and freedom for others, and people who are just trying to live in this world. You can also find the characteristics and people of many different cultures.

There were almost 40 pieces of stories, poems or drawings in this anthology. Some of them were more difficult to read, with science or cultural references that I didn’t quite understand. But there were also stories that made me cry, and stories that made me scared, or hopeful for our future – or all of the above.

First, the anthology opens with a Foreword: On the Origins of Solarpunk, as well as an editor’s note, which was pretty useful, given that (other than a few very short pieces of writing) this anthology was my first “longer” introduction to solarpunk.

Solarpunk, a new movement in SF that examines the possibility of a future in which currently emerging movements in society and culture such as the green movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, and certain aspects of Occupy Wall Street coalesce to create a more optimistic future in a more just world. – Foreword

Solarpunk emphasizes innovative interaction with both our communities and our environment; socio-environmental thought and creation, rather than merely survival in a decaying world, inspire the solarpunk attitude. – Editor’s Note

It would take forever to review every single story, so I’m going to talk about some of my favourites.

  • the boston hearth project by t.x. watson (this story was about a group of people basically doing a heist to take over a building and turn it into a homeless shelter, and it was amazing)
  • speechless love by yilun fan, translated by s. qiouyi lu (I appreciate that this was a translated work, and the story itself is great as well – it takes place in a world where people live in hoverships because the planet surface is not habitable)
  • radio silence by carlin reynolds (this one is a drawing so I can’t say much about without just describing the whole thing, but I love it and the title is so fitting)
  • solar powered giraffes by jack pevyhouse (this is a seven-line poem and I absolutely love it)
  • pan, legs resting by sireesha reddy (another amazing drawing)
  • last chance by tyler young (this story is about humanity destroying two planets, so when they get to the third one, they name it ‘last chance’, and they come up with a pretty cruel but hopefully effective way to save this one.)
  • the desert, blooming by lev mirov (one of my favourite things about this story was that there were no pronouns or gendered words used for /anyone/, only their names. and yet it wasn’t distracting at all and it took a while to even notice)
  • the seven species by aleksei valentín (this one is a great poem)
  • boltzmann brain by kristine ong muslim (I can’t even explain why but this one made me cry)
  • the reset by jaymee goh (a scientist makes a machine that sets the Earth back 30 years so there is time to counteract the destruction of the planet, only it goes wrong and everyone still remembers those 30 years even though they were physically reset. I loved this concept from the beginning, but the little twist at the end made me cry.)
  • you and me and the deep dark sea by jess barber (two old friends and maybe something else deal with the loss of their girlfriend after the apocalypse. it’s also about a community surviving and holding together after the apocalypse. I loved that it was kinda small-scale but equally important.) They end up down by the ocean, slumped against each other, daring the water to come for them.
  • through the glass by leigh wallace (another beautiful drawing)
  • a catalogue of sunlight at the end of the world by a.c. wise (listen. I sobbed at this one. it’s about an old man staying behind on Earth as most other people live in spaceships for a new planet.) No one, not even a planet, should have to die alone.

It was difficult to narrow it down, but this is already a pretty long list. Just because something isn’t listed here doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it. Ultimately, I think this was a great introduction to solarpunk because there are truly so many stories and little snippets, so everyone is bound to like at least a few.

I’m going to end with two funnier quotes:

  • “Liam, helping out by lounging around and looking pretty” (you and me and the deep dark sea)
  • “I’ve even adopted a cat. Or it’s adopted me. A little grey kitten I’ve named Predator X. They won’t have cats in space.” (a catalogue of sunlight at the end of the world)

My rating: 🌞🌞🌞🌞🌞/5.

~ Alexa


Review: Cheerleaders from Planet X

35671549Cheerleaders from Planet X by Lyssa Chiavari

Genre: Science Fiction, Aliens, LGBTQAI+, YA
Series: Standalone
Published: September 5th 2017 by The Kraken Collective
Length: 318 pages (Kindle edition)
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
LGBTQAI+: Lesbian main character and love interest
Sex on page: No
Note: Half-Filipina main character

Aliens are among us. And humanity’s only hope just happens to carry pom-poms.

Laura Clark thought she was just your average college freshman—until the day she saw a cheerleader on a skateboard get into a superhuman brawl with a lightning-wielding stranger in a trenchcoat. And the weirdest thing of all? Nobody else saw it happen. Nobody, that is, except the beautiful but standoffish Shailene, one of the mysterious (and possibly super-powered) cheerleaders from Laura’s rival school, Bayview University.

When girls start disappearing all over the City, Laura suddenly realizes that she may have seen more than she should. And if she wants to keep from disappearing herself, she needs to find some answers. But though Laura can’t shake the feeling that they’re somehow connected, Shailene is more than a little reluctant to share her secrets. With strange, bug-like creatures and a sinister man in a dark coat stalking her every step, Laura will have to uncover the truth fast if she wants to survive.

The fate of the planet just might hang in the balance.

It’s somehow unusually difficult to articulate my thoughts about this book, so this review might be a little all over the place.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while – I was first intrigued by the cover and the title, then the blurb. Cheerleaders who fight aliens like some kind of superheroes? Sign me up!

I read this book fairly quickly and I enjoyed it as well, but when I got to the end I had to realise that it was more forgettable than I hoped. I enjoyed the action and the plot twists (really – I guessed part of it, but there was much that I couldn’t/didn’t guess so I was at the edge of my seat waiting to find out what was going to happen), but when everything was finally revealed, it felt like a little too much at once. Suddenly all kinds of government conspiracies and they-aren’t-who-you-think and Greek mythology was involved, and most of this was revealed at the same time. I felt like a more gradual reveal of the situation might have been better.

Most importantly, I just couldn’t really connect with any of the characters. I enjoyed the dialogue, especially the several references/jokes about the upcoming election and such, but in the end none of the characters truly grabbed me. I was interested in what was going to happen them, but not THEM, if that makes sense.

In short, this was an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable read for me.

My rating: 🛸🛸🛸🛸/5.

~ Alexa


ARC Review: Flotsam (Peridot Shift #1)

37943458 Flotsam by R. J. Theodore

Genre: Science Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy
Series: Peridot Shift #1
Published: March 27th 2018 by Parvus Press LLC
Length: 324 pages (Kindle edition)
Purchase: Publisher | Amazon | Book Depository
LGBTQAI+: I think Tisker (a side character) is gay, but there is only really one reference to it and the word isn’t used. There are also aliens who use neopronouns. (So, not much.)
Sex on page: No (also no romance at all, only references to a past fling)

There is currently a U.S. only giveaway for Flotsam by the publisher here.

A fantastical steampunk first contact novel that ties together high magic, high technology, and bold characters to create a story you won’t soon forget.

Captain Talis just wants to keep her airship crew from starving, and maybe scrape up enough cash for some badly needed repairs. When an anonymous client offers a small fortune to root through a pile of atmospheric wreckage, it seems like an easy payday. The job yields an ancient ring, a forbidden secret, and a host of deadly enemies.

Now on the run from cultists with powerful allies, Talis needs to unload the ring as quickly as possible. Her desperate search for a buyer and the fallout from her discovery leads to a planetary battle between a secret society, alien forces, and even the gods themselves.

Talis and her crew have just one desperate chance to make things right before their potential big score destroys them all.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not even sure how to rate this book. 3 stars? 3.5?

Peridot is a fractured planet made up of many islands, home to five distinct humanoid races that were created by the Divine Alchemists, who are now worshipped as gods: Cutter, Breaker, Bone, Vein and Rakkar. The main character, Talis, and two other members of her crew are all Cutters, and the fourth one, Dug is a Bone.

I would like to start by saying that I loved the worldbuilding in theory – the fractured planet and the five races that were created by gods who still live among the people – but I had problems with the execution. To me, the Cutters sort of seemed like “regular” humans with no real special characteristics. We only see one Breaker in the entire book, and basically no named Rakkars. The Vein are four-limbed people who are physically blind, but oh, they have a magical sight – like every other blind race in anything ever. And finally, the Bone are dark-skinned people who live in desert tribes. While not outright barbaric, the Bone are often portrayed as violent, and the one Bone crew member, Dug, is described as large and intimidating immediately when he appears. I hope I don’t have to explain why I was conflicted about that. In short, I liked the idea but I felt like the races could have been written much better, and I’m hoping they’ll be more detailed in the sequel.

As for the characters, in the first half I was intrigued by all four crew members of the Wind Sabre – but towards the second half, Sophie and Tisker faded into the background and barely felt like individual people. Also, as I mentioned above, there is one throwaway sentence about Tisker not preferring Talis’s “parts”, which is not only a pretty cissexist way to say he’s gay, but it’s also never brought up again. (To be fair, there aren’t really heterosexual romances in the book either, other than mentions of the fling Talis used to have with one of the male antagonists.)

One thing I really enjoyed was the alien race (the Yu’Nyun) and the very different way they use gender and pronouns. They don’t seem to have genders at all, or at least at this point we don’t know anything about those – they use pronouns based on situation and class, and they have very strict rules on what class is allowed to wear what type of clothes. If I remember well, there are 9 pronoun groups, but like 50 different versions of the same pronoun? While this is only explored in a couple of scenes so far, I was genuinely intrigued by an alien race that is truly different from what we expect, and doesn’t just have the same binary genders. The characters we see use the xe/xin/xist pronoun set, and one of them becomes a major side character. (Although an actual “human” (Cutter, Bone, etc.) nonbinary character would have been nice.)

As for the plot… I sadly have to admit that I almost completely lost interest in the book about 70% in. I found myself enjoying it until then, but the main battle fell flat for me and I was begging for it to be over. Still, there were some plot twists and solutions by the crew before the 70% mark that I appreciated.

In short, I would say that Flotsam had many ideas that I liked, but the execution very often could have been better. I might pick up the sequel to see if these things improve, but at this point I am undecided. Honestly, I have no idea where the plot is going after this, but I hope we learn more about the Rakkars and the Breakers, as well as the Yu’Nyun. Especially regarding the Yu’Nyun, I have some suspicions based on hints and I would love to see more.

My rating: 👾👾👾/5.

~ Alexa


Review: Starlings

35967251I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.

I was recommended two different books by Jo Walton (The Just City and My Real Children, specifically) and while I unfortunately haven’t managed to get a copy of either of those, after reading those two blurbs my thoughts were pretty much “I want to live in this person’s brain”. Jo Walton seemed to be an author with incredibly creative and unique ideas, and I wanted to read something of hers. Thus, I picked up Starlings.

Starlings is a collection of short pieces of writing, both in prose and in verse. I admit that not all of the short stories worked for me and I didn’t like most of the poems (note: there were fewer poems than short stories), but that’s expected in collections. There were still several stories that I adored, and I am now even more excited to be picking up more of Jo Walton’s work in the future.

Since there were so many stories (around 21 short stories and 15 poems), it would be difficult to review all of them, so let me say a few words about my favourites. Some of these are only one or two pages long and yet they absolutely blew me away. More than anything, what really grabbed me was how different all these stories were from each other, and how many topics they covered.

Relentlessly Mundane: I may be biased, but this one had one of my favourite concepts/tropes, and carried it out beautifully. What happens to the children who become the heroes of fantasy worlds and then have to go back to live in their own? How do they deal with their past experiences as adults?

Out Of It: A story about angels, devils, and making deals with them. “You never give up, do you?” “Never.”

Parable Lost: An interesting take on the parable of throwing jellyfish in the sea.

Tradition: A short sci-fi story about traditions with an endearing twist.

What Joseph Felt: A few beautiful pages from the perspective of the Bible’s Joseph and his views on his wife and newborn child.

The Need to Stay the Same: I absolutely loved this one. It’s a book review of a book where humans are a fictional race.

A Burden Shared: Is it really easier to carry someone else’s pain than your own?

Since most of these stories are short, it’s difficult to say a lot about them without spoiling the whole thing (and often, it’s not really the plot that is interesting but the writing, so summing them up is difficult). In any case, this collection had some amazing short stories (and the poems were alright too I suppose). There’s some sci-fi, something more like fantasy, some Greek and Norse mythology, some Christian mythology… A little something for everyone, really.

My rating: ★★★★★

~ Alexa


Review: Time Will Tell

36658662I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have so many thoughts about this book. It is easily one of my new favourites, and yet there was a huge thing that bothered me so much that I cannot give it the full 5 stars.

First, let me talk about my expectations. The cover was a little strange, since it had an old-timey feel and made me think of an elderly couple instead of two young women in modern time? But hey, time travel and f/f romance, here I come!

From the beginning, I was absolutely taken in and in love with the characters. Eva and Casey were alive and amazing, their relationship (originally a friendship) was supportive, the scenes between them were heartfelt, real, and beautiful. I’m sure you kind of guessed from this paragraph, but I absolutely adored their romance.

Without spoiling much of the book, Casey and Eva have been friends since they were twelve, and could have gotten together in high school… only things went wrong, and they finally reconnect several years later, as young adults. They have both changed a lot and they are both dealing with their own trauma (which was mostly realistic and well-handled and amazing to see!), but they can finally act on their feelings! Their relationship isn’t perfect, but it has realistic troubles and conflicts, and at least one of them is sure they can all work it out.

Sounds great, right? Okay, here’s the part where it went wrong for me.

First, let me quote the blurb at you:

What would you do if you could go back in time and change your past?

For Eva Caldwell that question is a no-brainer. (…) She’d gladly go back and change it all. When her uncle passes, Eva discovers he created a time machine. (…)

Will Eva choose to save her parents’ lives or take a chance on the love of a lifetime?

I cut some parts to make it shorter, but it’s clear that this book is about time travel, right? Well, not exactly. Eva finds her uncle’s time machine mentioned in the blurb at 75% in the ebook. That’s… that’s the last quarter of the book! Don’t get me wrong, you can see from the beginning of this review that I absolutely adored the first three quarters – but it was a cute contemporary romance without any mention of time travel, and my brain just kept going, okay, but where’s the action promised in the blurb and the prologue? That constant anticipation ruined my enjoyment of a good percentage of the book. It was a good and enjoyable story… but it was not the story I signed up for.

I can’t really talk about the last quarter of the book without giving tons of spoilers, so let me just say this: it ends very abruptly, and I was ready to throw my phone (on which I was reading) across the room. Thankfully, there’s an epilogue! … And what an epilogue it is. Pros: it actually gives some closure and even explains why the time travel came so late in the book, although it didn’t erase the annoyance I felt when it kept not coming. And the twist in this epilogue, well… it’s one that you can both love or hate, and I am a little on the fence on which crowd I’m in. I’m leaning more towards positive – it was a clever idea, although I feel like the pacing (or at least the damn misleading blurb) could have been solved better.

The next paragraph is going to be spoilers because I need to talk about this, so if you don’t want them then skip it somehow:

Part of the reason why I was so pissed at the ending is that Eva gives Casey no choice or closure. Oh sure, it works out well for them in the new timeline (if you interpret it as a new timeline and not as the original one being fiction), but what about Casey in the old timeline? She was so willing to work things out with Eva, and while Eva said she was doing it for Casey too – she never asked Casey about it or gave her any kind of explanation. She only disappeared, and given how bad Casey got the last time she did that… It’s not looking good. Ultimately, Lizzy was right about Eva and I hated it.

In summary: I loved the first three quarters of the book, even though it really wasn’t what I signed up for. I have some serious problems with the ending/the time travel plotline as well as the pacing of the book, so I cannot give it five stars – but rest assured, this is still one of the best books I read this year. (Which might not be saying much in February, but shh.)

Content warnings: abusive guardian, PTSD, alcoholism
Sex scenes: two explicit sex scenes (at around 46% and 91% in the ebook) and some explicit sexting

My rating: ★★★★☆

Do you like novels with time travel? What are some of your favourite time travel books?

~ Alexa


Review: Ardulum: First Don


I received a copy through NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Ardulum is truly a sci-fi story – not just humans vaguely in space, but many developed alien species. For me, the strongest aspect of the book was worldbuilding, especially the different aliens. I loved how they didn’t have the same binary gender system as humans do – one species for example has three genders, and another one has only one gender where all members use the same nonbinary pronoun. (According to the author bio, she is nonbinary and prefers female pronouns, so it’s even #ownvoices for that aspect!) I also loved other unique aspects of the cultures other than gender, for example all members of a species sharing the same name.

A unique and surprisingly clever part was the quote before every single chapter – from a radio broadcast, from a protest, from an in-world document… I feel like these quotes helped make the world feel real, show that it goes on even outside our protagonists.


Unfortunately, there were also some parts where all the foreign words and the explanation of the Ardulans’ powers (all that talk of cellulose and chemical bonds) went over my head and I found it difficult to visualise what was happening, but I suppose that’s my own personal problem.

I also had some complicated feelings about the metamorphosis in one of the species – I understand that they are alien beings and thus work differently, but it was still strange to see a character who was referred to as “child” for 80% of the book suddenly act and be treated like an adult while basically no time passed for anyone else.

Overall, I’d say that I loved the creative worldbuilding and the myths surrounding the vanishing planet of Ardulum. The plot felt boring at times and there were parts that were confusing or vaguely uncomfortable to read, but there wasn’t really anything I hated about this book.


The book ended in a place with a lot of open questions, so I am curious to see what the sequel makes of this!

(That being said, if you see it being labelled “Lesbian” on Goodreads and go in with those expectations, you may be disappointed because there really isn’t a mention of the main character’s sexuality in this first book.)

My rating: ★★★★☆

~ Alexa