Disclosure: Sunny Moraine is a friend, but our friendship in no way influenced my reading of this book. I even purchased my own copy.
Line and Orbit, the debut novel from Sunny Moraine and Lisa Soem is astonishingly good and if you’re a fan of thoughtful science fiction that also has a ton of action, then this may be the book for you.
Adam Yuga has grown up in the Protectorate, which is an unholy combination of government and corporation whose main goal seems to be making lots of money and perfecting the human genome. Anything less than perfection is taboo there and those who fall ill or otherwise exhibit anything less than perfection are ruthlessly culled from the general population–unemployable and their resources drained to treat their conditions. Adam is a rising star being giving an amazing promotion when, in the course of the routine physical required for the position, it is discovered that he supposedly has the beginnings of heart disease. His position terminated and his assets liquidated and spend on a new cardiovascular system, Adam uses the last of his funds to buy a small ship and heads for the stars.
This is a horrifying and terrible situation and it frankly hits on a number of my worst fears about employment and health insurance and if there hadn’t been a society that was the opposite of the Protectorate in nearly every way I probably would have stopped reading because hopeless dystopian novels are very much not my thing. But Adam is a sympathetic and somewhat tortured protagonist and I kept reading beyond the first chapters because of him.
So the opposite of the Protectorate are the Bideshi–a group of humans who decided they didn’t like the direction that the Protectorate was taking humanity and left. They have these amazing homeships which, to a certain extent, reminded me of the generation ships in Elizabeth Bear’s Jacob’s Ladder trilogy but definitely more human (the inhabitants of Bear’s generation ships are definitely post-human, in my opinion). They are these improbable and amazing ships that travel in groups of three and they’re just everything I want out of a generation ship. They’re communally governed and their economy is based on barter of good or services–and if you belong, then you belong for good or for ill.
Lochlan d’Bideshi encounters Adam in a space station right after Adam’s done something immensely stupid: stolen five million credits from the Protectorate. And he saves Adam’s perfectly genetically engineered ass and gets him to his homeship, Ashwina.
And lots of things happen–I don’t want to summarize the whole book so I’ll just say that Adam’s health problem is symptomatic of much larger problem within the Protectorate and one that they’re not admitting to anyone, not even themselves. And there’s a deliciously manic and shortsighted executive for the reader to direct their dislike onto as well as several more sympathetic Protectorate characters.
And there are AWESOME ALIENS. I love the Klashorg. I want to know more about them. I love that they only have rudimentary eyes and are covered in green fur that seems to be a sensory organ. I love that they are such badasses that they have only had three wars in their entire history. So so so awesome. I kept seeing them as sort of menacing but not dangerous unless provoked Muppets.
There’s also a scene where Adam gets to hang out in a gun turret naked. And kind of forgets about it and afterwards everyone is all, “Dude, where are your pants?”. It’s excellent. As is the relationship that develops between him and Lock, all awkward and messy because Adam’s never been romantically involved with anyone (homosexuality seems to be one of those things that the Protectorate sees as a defect) and Lock is emotionally distant and more used to short term relationships. And Kae and Leila are awesome and I love the way they claim Adam as family.
Just so much stuff to love about this book. The writing is strong, the characters are all fascinating as hell, and the setting is really, truly epic. And there’s obviously a lot more to come, so I was very glad to hear that Moraine and Soem are working on a sequel. YES. MORE. PLEASE.
(Also, this is the sort of thing I would love to acquire for Masque. Just saying.)
And those of you who can look at animated GIFs, go ahead and click through/scroll down, those of you who can’t, I’m going suggest that you not–it’s from Blingee. It’s not strobe-y or super-blinky, but it is a bit blinky and I’d rather warn instead of surprise someone with a migraine or other unpleasantness.
Because this is how much I love this book: