Escaping Exodus, Nicky Drayden (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-286773-5, $15.99, 300pp, tp) October 2019.
On a generation ship, two young people from different classes meet and fall in love. One rises, one falls, and their complex and forbidden relationship causes a major rupture in the society. This is a classic SF trope: Drayden takes it to new places.
In Escaping Exodus, people use a pod of space whales as generation ships to escape an (unnamed) catastrophe on Earth. The people “terraform” the interior of the beasts, exploiting both the beasts’ internal systems and the biota that have adapted to live inside them; as those systems are exhausted, the society has to move from one beast to another. There are ten different groups, each with a different social system – we see one in detail through Drayden’s characters, and only get glimpses of a few others. Drayden concentrates on an African-based, female-dominated society with polyamorous marriages and strong emphasis on family lines, and she does an excellent job of showing the strengths and weaknesses of such a system. The crises the characters go through make a great deal of sense within the society. I found myself slowing down reading the book, even though it’s got a breakneck pace: I wanted to take just a little longer to be with these people as they grow.
Nicky Drayden’s new novel builds on the amazing strengths she’s shown before. If you can imagine a feminist, Afro-centric, queer Heinlein juvenile, with a strong discussion of class politics, then you might get close to what she’s doing here. I don’t think I could have imagined such a book before reading this one. This is something I’ve been missing.
This review and more like it in the September 2019 issue of Locus.
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