ARC Review: THE FORTRESS by S.A. Jones (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: March 2020
Source: Physical ARC from Publisher

Received an ARC from the Erewhon Books, the publisher
Trigger warnings: violence, sex, abuse, child sexual assault (not shown, but mentioned), corporal punishment, acid attack

Some stories you read and you enjoy it for the story. Others you read, and you can see the author trying to process things going on the real world. In The Fortress, Jonathon Bridges pledges himself to one year of servitude to the Vaik, an all-women population living on their own land separate from the rest of society. The story follows his year and describes the litany of sins and penance.

What Jones masterfully pulls off is the kind of tale where I found it hard to critique in ways one would normally engage in a story. The prose is sharp. The world-building doesn’t quite fade into the background as immersion, but it’s there enough to contextualized everything happening to Jonathon. I found myself wishing him to get a hold of himself and nigh-yelling about how much of a piece of shit he is, but not in the way of a character in a story, but a person in real life. How he could be so complicit to so many heinous things. It seems that Jones herself is trying to understand men like Jonathon. Instead of going a revenge route—and there were so many opportunities—Jones chooses compassion. The choice of service as opposed to violence left such an impression. Did I read this book or did its thesis just happen?

A unique tale in which the path to anything resembling redemption means letting go of your ego and giving over completely to servitude.

ARC Review: FINNA by Nino Cipri (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: February 25, 2020
Source: The author

Received an eARC from the author

The nightmare of IKEA—I’m sorry, LitenVäld—is made so much worse when it turns out that there are multiple versions of each one scattered throughout a multiverse. It doesn’t help when you have to navigate it with your ex who is also your co-worker.

The relationship between Ava and Jules is so completely. Both of them are bona fide disasters. Cipri expertly sets up the conflicts and that ended their relationships as the kinds of arguments which help them survive being lost at sea and cannibal sales associates. It’s another one of those books where you’re rooting for the main characters to both be brave enough to be cowards and cowardly enough to be brave. Did I cry at the end? Yes. Retail is a hellscape, but can be survivable with the right people at your side.

Wormholes, retail hell, and a queer love story. What more can you want?

ARC Review: UPRIGHT WOMEN WANTED by Sarah Gailey (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Alternate History/Future (Speculative Fiction)
Year Release: February 4, 2020
Source: The Publisher, Tor.com

Received an ARC from the publisher, Tor.com

The Wild West seems to be a having a very small moment. If you enjoyed Gailey’s first novella, River of TeethUpright Women Wanted will tickle those cowboy needs, albeit with fewer swamps and hippos.

The femmes in this novel are all so complex. Queer librarians actually spying for the resistance on horseback? A tough cinnamon roll who followed all the rules only to run away from there? A non-binary who code-switches when going into towns to protect the mission at large? Casual polyamory? Betrayals? This novel has so many trappings of a great desert adventure on horseback and so much more. The world-building is great and gives context to the work these librarians do without actually having to spell it out for the reader. In addition, it doesn’t flinch away from the mundane nastiness of life on the road, and I found that magical.

It bears repeating: if you liked Gailey’s first two novellas, you’re going to be enamored with this one.