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findingthegrain

Finding The Grain by Wynn Malone is, in my mind, one of those rare treasures destined to become a classic- if not an instant classic, it is certainly a cut well above.  It’s one of those books that, as a writer, I read and get jealous because I WISH I could write like that!  Maybe some day if I keep at it…It’s not that the story is particularly unique necessarily; the basic elements are pretty common, in fact (at least at first glance).  Girl meets girl, they fall in love, there’s something that keeps them apart but in the end their love is just too strong to deny, etc.  But it’s SO MUCH MORE than that, and it’s HOW the story is told that makes this one special.  It is how this story is told that will keep me coming back to it again and again.

Finding the Grain is the story of a woman named Augusta Blue Riley, Blue to most, and takes place over a couple decades (+) and several states.  It’s about love, loss, the human spirit, and finding your place in the world- a place to call home.  Yes, it’s a romance; but for me, the romance of this book is secondary to the journey this woman takes to get where she needs to be- it’s a catalyst, it’s an engine and it’s one of the rewards, but it’s not the real point.   For me, this book is about growth, trust, strength of spirit and love.  Not just fleeting romantic love, but the real, abiding and lasting love between people that are bonded at a soul deep level- whether it’s the family we’re born with or the family we choose- and letting that love in.

Ms. Malone’s descriptions of people and places bring them to life in a way that isn’t so common in recent work; it’s the sort of description and insight that can only come from having been there or from having the sort of deep empathy necessary to get the story right. Whatever the case for Ms. Malone, she definitely gets it right.  I’ve lived in Alabama.  I’ve been to Colorado and the west coast and Mississippi and North Carolina and I can tell you that it’s 100% spot on.  But it’s more than that.  It’s not just a passive expression, but the kind that gets as under your skin and into your bones as real time spent in a real place with real people. I laughed, I cried, I got angry; I felt the hurt and the heat and the resentment and the joy right along with Blue and the other wonderful people her path crosses.

If this reads like a glowing review for this book, GOOD.  I LOVED IT.  And I was sad when it ended – not because of the ending, but because I wanted it to go on forever.

Kathleen Wheeler is Author of Changing Shape and GCLS Nominated The Immaculate Chaos of Being

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loveinthetimeofglobalwarming

Love in the Time of Global Warming follows Penelope – Pen – through a modern dystopian retelling of The Illiad. After a catastrophic earthquake (appropriately named the Ground Shaker) destroys her happy teenage life, Pen embarks on a dark myth-steeped adventure to find her missing parents and brother. Along the way, she encounters monsters, both literal and figurative, puzzles, and three other queer teens. However, despite the premise, the focus in Love is on storytelling and narrative, not on dystopian details. Pen tells stories and weaves narratives out of dreams, visions, and reality. There are some gritty details – searching for water or fuel, struggling to find food – but the book tends to skim over details that don’t further a metaphor or theme. The result is a dreamy experience, but Love lacks a certain level of grounding that I would have liked to see. The action scenes are never visceral and action was sometimes subsumed by vague prose.

Pen herself is a fascinating character, a bisexual teenage girl who speaks and dreams in art and literary allusions. (Several times, I found myself researching the unfamiliar paintings she references). She reveals her longstanding unreciprocated crush on one of her best friends in flashbacks and dreams, and while her sexuality is not the main focus of the book, her attraction to women and the female figure do often feature in her reactions. Her main love interest – Hex – is transgender and the first of three queer teenagers she meets. Their growing relationship is heartfelt, lovely, and slow enough to never upstage the pace of their grand quest.

Francesca Lia Block writes Love in the Time of Global Warming with floating and lush prose, rich with imagery and monsters pulled both from Homer (the Lotus-Eaters, the Sirens, and more) and traditional fairy-tales. Butterflies and small acts of courage are both oft reoccurring themes. If you enjoy gorgeous wordplay, art and literary allusions, I can definitely recommend Love in the Time of Global Warming.

hood

Hood is not your light reading on the beach, rather a long sitting in bed with a box of tissues and a warm blanket. Emma Donoghue writes a tragically beautiful story about two women who shared a special kind of love –a love that many might not agree with. Pen O’Grady and Cara Wall have spent well over a decade together in conservative Dublin, Ireland, their love expressed only behind closed doors. Cara enjoyed pursuing men and women outside of her relationship with Pen; on one particular trip, she never made it back home due to a fatal car accident. Pen got the painful news on a Sunday evening while at home with Cara’s father in 1992. Pen is left numb as she cannot express her true reactions in the public or to family members due to their secret relationship and society’s disapproval of homosexuality.

Throughout the span of one week, we follow Pen as she tries to cope with the passing of her long-time lover. Donoghue paints an in depth picture of deep loss and profound realizations intertwined with moments of simple comedic relief. Flashbacks of their times together, both the wonderful memories and numerous breakups, help us understand the complexities of Pen and Cara’s romance. Although Pen and Cara had an agreement that they were not monogamous, Pen was always faithful to Cara, at least in the physical sense. I think Pen would have preferred their relationship to be more contained; however, her unyielding love for Cara made their arrangement more bearable.

I am glad that I embraced Hood with an open mind and undivided attention. The story is quite relatable, not only in the aspect of losing a loved one whether it’d be due to a relationship coming to an end or in unforeseeable circumstances, but also dealing with the fear of people not accepting your sexuality. Quite often that fear that keeps us in the closet to shelter us from negative reactions does just the opposite. We become lonelier and find it hard to develop close relationships if we are not fully honest with who we are. Pen is a prime example of this phenomenon as she could not call her mother on the phone following Cara’s passing and share her heartbreak with her.

One particular thought by Pen struck me as unfair in that if Cara was her husband, she would have been given two weeks off of work to grieve the loss of her partner. Regrettably, we live in a heteronormative world; it is heartbreakingly unjust that the love of two women is not appreciated in the same light by many individuals. Pen’s place of work, an Irish convent school for teenagers, upholds traditional views of the Catholic religion and perhaps she would have lost her teaching position if she had revealed her true identity. It is sad that she could not have more time to deal with her loss.

Stories revolving around the death of a loved one gone before their time remind us to treasure our lives and appreciate the moments we share with others. I wonder if Cara and Pen knew their time would be limited with one another, if they would have been open with their family about their partnership. Towards the end of Pen’s difficult week, we left on a hopeful note that things might be okay.

Hood is my second read by Emma Donoghue. I read Room a couple years ago and it remains one of my favorite books to this day. Donoghue has this incredible gift of holding the readers’ heart hostage as we immerse ourselves inside the intricate minds of her characters.

protection

Protection by Carla Blake is labelled an erotic thriller.  The story is centred on the relationships between actress Carrie Shilling, her bodyguard Andrea Stone and Isobel Pearce, a woman fascinated with Carrie. Carrie is a rising star, who recently left a popular TV soap to star in high profile movies. After a terrifying run-in with excited fans, a decision is made to hire an undercover bodyguard who would pretend she was merely Carrie’s friend to the public. Andrea Stone, the hired bodyguard, is an out lesbian and the novel follows the development of the relationship between the two characters. Alongside this, the novel follows Isobel, with her growing obsession and clever tactics to get closer to the star.

In all honesty I struggled to finish this novel.  If I wasn’t reviewing this novel, I would have stopped reading it after the third chapter. Blake’s writing style didn’t quite sit right with me and the story failed to engage me. I found the characters two-dimensional. Many of the conversations between the characters felt forced and unnatural. There were elements in the story that could have been interesting, had they been examined in greater depth. Instead issues such as Carrie’s coming out, the relationship between Carrie and Andrea and the impact of having a stalker were dealt with in a fairly shallow manner. The book did have an erotic aspect to it, but perhaps due to my apathy towards the characters, none of the sex scenes even really drew me in.

Aside from my lack of interest in the story and the characters, there were other factors that made it difficult for me to finish the book. I was extremely uncomfortable when a boy in a crowd of fans jumping on Carrie was described as “the coloured boy”. This is not an old book, it was published in 2010, and such language is offensive and inappropriate. Sadly, this very minor character was also one of the few visible people of colour in the story.

Body shaming was also present throughout the book and again, made me quite uncomfortable. For example, at one point, Carrie refers to a job applicant in the following terms:  “there’s one who’s as wide as she’s tall and quite frankly is so ugly she’ll curdle the milk.” Rather than this being just a flaw of the main character, the body shaming is present at numerous points in the story, including during the third person narration.

There were also a large number of typos in the book. A lot of books do have the occasional typo but there were enough in here for it to disrupt my reading flow significantly. In addition, words were underlined for emphasis when they should have been italicised. These errors could have been forgiven if the story was engaging but instead, it added to my irritation with the novel.

I’m reluctant to write such a negative review of a book but unfortunately I don’t have any positive comments to make. There is little to redeem this book and I wouldn’t recommend it. There is a lot of fantastic lesbian fiction out there and I think readers should look elsewhere for some hot lesbian bodyguard action!

TheDarkWifebySarahDiemer

The Dark Wife is a retelling of the ancient Greek myth involving Persephone and Hades. This myth is one of my favorites, so I picked up its reinterpretation eagerly. Diemer’s tale didn’t disappoint.

This book simply holds a solid, good story. The prose is immediately engrossing and full of similes which paint the ancient world Diemer depicts. The pacing is, perhaps, slow – but this isn’t intended to be a page-turning thriller. This is a kind of fanfiction, if you will, and it allows a lover of ancient myths to indulge herself for a time.

Diemer writes Hades as a woman in such a way that, while reading, I kept forgetting that the ‘actual’ Hades is male. After reading the book, I find Diemer’s characterization preferable. In addition, I appreciated that Diemer didn’t skim across the sexual assaults and crimes committed by the gods (especially one god…). Diemer isn’t an apologist and doesn’t try to make light of any of the darkness in these myths.

This is a wholesome retelling. My sole complaint is that the epilogue could have been longer, but this is hardly a bad thing! The Dark Wife comes fully recommended.

For anyone interested in another expansion (although not a retelling) of an Ancient Greek myth, try The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

babyji

Babyji (2005) by Abha Dawesar is an atypical ‘coming of age’ novel featuring an academically gifted, sexually empowered female protagonist Anamika Sharma. Dawesar returns to her Indian roots, placing Anamika in the heart of a class-divided Delhi, juggling the pressures of being both a student and a lover.

This is an unapologetic exploration of the wanton desires of a sexually active teenager littered with occasional self-reflection and naivety. You are immediately introduced to ‘India’, Anamika’s much older, newly divorced female lover. Before you have time to understand this relationship, Rani, the new family servant, shakes her tail feathers for Anamika which ignites the hormones of our lusty sixteen year old heroine and we aren’t even 25 pages into Babyji!

“Her breathing got heavier. I was scandalising myself. I was petrified. I had no idea what to do next.” (p25, eBook).

The pacing shifts from breakneck speed to slow motion as Dawesar chronicles intimate moments between the lovers with the precise accuracy of the curiously intelligent teen. The seduction is sliced up with school life. Anamika still has to handle the everyday hassles of education including exams, bullies and school girl crushes.

Dawesar writes for the every-audience, explaining Indian traditions and expectations as observational thoughts, leaving nothing to assumption of understanding. Having never been to India and living in Westernised Australia, I appreciated these culture teachings and enjoyed their constant inclusion, cleverly used to build Anamika’s character profile and educate the reader.

The intensity of the reoccurring romances, including the trip away with ‘India’, builds to a level of incredibility as Babyji maintains momentum while Anamika holds the interest of three female lovers and an older male suitor. I found myself exclaiming out loud in disbelief at some points, perhaps not being convinced that our young adult was capable of ‘having it all’. Admittedly, her school life and friendships occasionally take a hit as she is preoccupied with learning the philosophies of love. Then again, perhaps that’s what all the teenagers are doing these days and I’ve just lived a sheltered existence.

Babyji, while pushing the buttons on relationship realities, powerfully conveys the opinions of the protagonist on various topics – from science to society – and uniquely steps out of the ‘coming of age’ category into the sociopolitical sphere. Class structure, education and family units are thematically explored throughout, proving a break from the titillating tours of the female lover.

If you somehow missed catching this novel around it’s release in 2005, it’s worth the purchase (I read the Kindle edition) to experience Delhi from a wealthy, sexually confident teenage girl’s perspective. I enjoyed delving into Anamika’s world, living her life with her and was left wanting more at the somewhat abrupt ending.

“I want to be free. I don’t want society telling me what to do all the time.” – Anamika is the everylesbian (p300, eBook).

tellme

There is something haunting about a novel that engages in a manner such that the reader feels the story to be her story, seducing to a degree wherein the experience conveyed comes to flow through her veins and beat with her heart until it leaves her all but trembling with emotion, eventually settling within the very marrow of her bones. Having surrendered to the intensity, the reader’s breath quickens as she teeters on the cusp of long-awaited climax — only to find herself utterly deflated upon finding the tale hijacked by an author who betrays her characters in favor of the propagation of her personal agenda. In spite of the rapturous buildup, the reader is left frustrated, forsaken and ultimately dissatisfied. I was that reader, and this was my experience of Tell Me by Deanna DiLorenzo.

After breaking up with her rockstar boyfriend, Meagan Summers finds herself under the spell of the beautiful and talented poet, Amber Reed. From the start, their relationship proves nothing less than high-conflict as Amber shifts from adoration and seduction to vengeance and retribution in the blink of an eye while Meagan struggles merely to wrap her head around the fact that she has entered into relationship with a woman, mortified by the subtlest public display of affection. Vacillating between the most passionate expressions of love and sinister acts of betrayal, Meagan and Amber nonetheless view themselves as soulmates, bound by the moonstone that symbolizes the depth of their connection.

After several emotionally exhausting months, Meagan ends the relationship under the pretext of sparing Amber any further pain and shortly thereafter begins a friendship with Ken, who she later marries but loves rather platonically; Amber becomes involved with the gorgeous and mean-spirited Gwynne, who Meagan and Ken hire as their interior decorator. Although they don facades intended to convince the other that they have moved on with their lives, their mutual obsession remains as strong as ever; and, just when Meagan touches upon the courage to abide by her own truth, tragedy strikes, leaving not only the couple’s destiny but Meagan’s very survival in the balance.

In spite of the undeniably compelling storyline, the looseness of DiLorenzo’s writing frequently steals the intensity from the emotional maelstrom brewing on the page. On several occasions, when I was rapt and eager to ride the next wave, the moment would be lost to a tangent that appeared either completely irrelevant or unsubstantiated by events prior or yet to come. By the time I recovered from the shift in trajectory, another instance lurked in the near distance, stealing the momentum that had so skillfully been cultivated up to that point.

Although the novel’s secondary characters come to life fully and vividly (especially Jenna, Meagan’s hippy-chick best friend), when it comes to the construction of Meagan’s personality, the culmination of traits simply does not make sense. It’s not a matter of contradictions within Meagan’s internal landscape or her oft-referenced neuroticism; rather, the incongruity feels to be more a result of a forcing on DiLorenzo’s part to make Meagan into something that she simply is not.

This dissonance extends to the relationship between Meagan and Amber as well, which never really embraces the essence that one would expect to find in soulmates; instead, the dynamic between them appears as the manifestation of the crazy-making nature of a relationship between one woman who cares about appearances more than she does her partner and another exhibiting a textbook personality disorder. Whereas the narrative paints Amber as a victim of Meagan’s reluctance to identify as lesbian, it completely disregards Amber’s manipulative and highly volatile borderline traits that would make any partnership a challenge. Somehow, the idea that Meagan is the sole perpetrator becomes central to the storyline; however, I was never convinced that there was any reason for her to assume the guilt that she feels her due. Although there are surely challenges inherent in being with a woman who is unable to accept her own sexuality, there are more productive ways of working with the issue than through rage, guilt-trips and aggression.

In spite of flaws in characterization, it was with the shift in tone toward the end of the book that the author abandons the novel’s integrity completely, giving Tell Me a propaganda-like feel as DiLorenzo contends through the voice of an astral guide named Victor that women who resist labels and embrace their sexual fluidity are more spiritually evolved than those who identify as lesbian. I would never dare invalidate another’s sexual identity, thus I found myself rather put off by DiLorenzo’s judgment. This aside, such a contentious assertion devalues Amber’s identification as lesbian and elevates Meagan’s process, which throughout the tale has been guided by fear and a healthy dose of cowardice.

DiLorenzo is without a doubt an extraordinary talent, creating a story of intense psychological impact and complexity; however, I can only assume that the breadth of her vision for this work was so vast that it would have been virtually impossible to carry it out without stumbling. That being said, I’d have given anything for the story to have proceeded on an earthly rather than astral plane, where spiritual guides spout opinions and pithy wisdom, for up until that point, DiLorenzo had me in complete surrender, begging for her to whisper nothing more than two charged yet simple words: “Tell Me.”

bermudeztriangle

Nina, Mel and Avery have been inseparable for as long as they can remember — until Nina decides to attend a leadership program at Stanford the summer before her senior year of high school. Mel, who knows she is a lesbian but has never spoken it aloud, plans to spend her summer working alongside Avery at a local restaurant in Saratoga, New York. Having her first real kiss with Avery was definitely not on the agenda, but once it happens, there is no turning back.

As Mel and Avery make the transition from best friends to girlfriends, Nina starts dating a boy in her program, an environmental activist from Oregon. Nina’s relationship seems perfect – she has finally met someone with as much ambition as her – but becomes complicated after she returns to New York. Mel and Avery’s relationship is far from ideal, and as the book progresses, the two become entangled in some scenarios that call into question whether they are better off as friends, partners, or neither.

I liked that Johnson was true to the teenage experience in documenting the ups and downs of high school relationships, but I also felt uncomfortable being thrust into the midst of the tension. While I agree that conflict is inevitable in portrayals of young love, there are parts of the story that seem bogged down by problems. These issues contribute to the likeability of the main characters; while no girl is flawless, there were many instances in which I sided with one over another, or felt that they could have easily avoided hurting each other. I know this is a deeply contested issue at the moment, especially concerning female characters, but likeability often determines whether readers (particularly adolescent readers) can connect to a text, and I suspect that Johnson alienates some readers at certain points in this novel. 

[spoilers] There is also some controversy over how Avery’s confusion about her sexuality was handled, and whether her hesitance to identify as anything other than straight perpetuates biphobia. Johnson’s response to a bisexual reader’s letter on the subject notes that she wanted to illustrate a relationship that didn’t have a traditionally happy ending (as often happens when close friends decide to date). Ultimately, Johnson writes that Avery looks like the bad character because she is the one who breaks up with the extremely likable Mel, and that Avery’s choice to go back to dating boys is the result of her internalized homophobia. Though this is a valid explanation, the reader is left rooting for Avery to overcome her fears, and the fact that she never gets there is upsetting. [end spoilers]

I also wish that the plot itself had been a little more complex; it was interesting, but did not stand out from other, similar novels. That being said, The Bermudez Triangle was written in 2007, and LGBT YA has become more self-conscious of “queering” your typical coming out story in more recent years. Overall, I would say that Johnson’s novel was a good quick read, but not one of my absolute favorites in this genre.

aroomofonesown

(a.k.a. Why all queer ladies should read A Room of One’s Own)

“For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.”

So ventures Virginia Woolf about midway through her 1928 essay A Room of One’s Own. She is just finally catching up to herself in the early 20th century, after conducting an informal survey of women’s history in print, when she proclaims that women must know whence their literary roots have sprung and grown: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn … for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Each woman who writes blazes a trail for more women to immortalize their words in ink. Today, nearly a century after Virginia Woolf’s time, one would be hard-pressed to find an artistic medium upon which women have not made their mark.

Yet while reading Woolf’s account of women’s suppressed and all-around miserable lives in the centuries before hers, I couldn’t help but think of all the women who still cannot enjoy the freedom of writing 140-character tweets let alone manifestos, histories, criticisms, novels, poems, or journals and have a chance to define our world. I can’t help but think of the voiceless in our own community: the silenced queer women who, 86 years after Virginia Woolf and her Orlando, are not free to even consider embracing their identity let alone write about and therefore proclaim it to the rest of us. According to Woolf, it is our charge as women to first light the way so we may pass the torch; to lend our voices if we are able so others may create the masterpieces of our time. And that is why every queer woman should read A Room of One’s Own.

Here are a few topics/reasons/persuasive tools!

  1. Don’t be afraid of Virginia Woolf. This 114-page speech-turned-essay reads like a narrative, and a thrilling one at that. Woolf guides us with care through ideas large and daunting, and while the text hardly feels that way, the ideas surely resonate (and would no matter your particular experience with feminism, in my opinion). There is enough space here to challenge her ideas, but you will not want to pull yourself away. A Room of One’s Own will have you note taking, annotating, and by the end – poet or not – inspired to write.
  2. Androgyny. The “Androgynous Mind” is a super interesting concept, and one that’s been often debated for perpetuating gender binaries. Woolf suggests that writers must have an androgynous mind – both male and female – in order to create a work of truth. I think Woolf means that an androgynous mind is one that is not preoccupied with the concepts of “male” or “female” and not held back by the social conventions expected of either. An androgynous writer is free to explore the human condition from the standpoint of a human, devoid of what might make him/her a him or her. Woolf has said of masculinity and femininity: “The time has not yet come when we can say for certain which is the man and which the woman, after both have boarded the taxi of human personality.” In my opinion, we still haven’t. And according to Woolf, a great writer will not strive to find these differences either.
  3. Women who “like” women. Another fascinating topic Woolf brings forth is female relationships in literature. She ventures that she cannot think of any two women in the course of her reading that were friends, or enjoyed a relationship more complex than jealousy. Is this not true of both lit and life? We’re conditioned to view other women as competition, and we’re told this is an innate behavior stemming from our days discovering fires and banging in caves. Well, if it was necessity then, it certainly isn’t now. And by Woolf boldly stating, “The truth is, I like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their subtlety. I like their anonymity,” she is calling for not just an acceptance of women as friends, but an acceptance of all the complexities, depth, and love that exist in female relationships of all kinds. PREACH, Virginia.
  4. Judith Shakespeare. My favorite component of A Room of One’s Own – which, I’ll remind you, is very much steeped in prose – is the story of William Shakespeare’s imagined (but oh so real) sister, Judith. Woolf takes us on a journey with the fictitious Judith, as an exercise in understanding what life was like for women in the past, and why they didn’t/couldn’t write. Judith Shakespeare has a passion for writing but is prohibited by her father from all creative pursuits. When forced to wed against her will, she runs away to London where, turned away from the theatre that so readily embraced her brother, she commits suicide. What is most stirring and poignant about this short but meaningful supposition into the Elizabethan woman’s life is Woolf’s triumphant proclamation that Shakespeare’s Sister exists inside all of us. “She lives in you and me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed … She lives; for great poets do not die.”
  5. What is our own room? Woolf has also been criticized of classism in A Room of One’s Own by asserting that £500 and the titular “room of one’s own” are necessary for a woman to write. Again, I must beg to differ. Woolf is too self-aware to claim that without these luxuries a woman can’t/shouldn’t write. “Why did men drink wine and women water?” she asks, before taking us through a history of women’s societal and literary silencing, the crux being that women are not and have not ever been free – except in circumstances beyond their control – to enjoy the privileges of steady, self-made income and privacy. Even Jane Austen had to hide her manuscripts, which she wrote in her family’s sitting room. Woolf closes the essay by saying that for women “to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worthwhile.” I contend that this room of one’s own is metaphorical, meaning mostly that women must have, as Woolf puts it, “the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think.”

As queer women, we must be aware of where our story began. In 1928, at the time of this publication, British author Radclyffe Hall’s lesbian-themed The Well of Loneliness was being decried as a ‘danger to the nation.’ Over the next century, queer literature has been consistently banned or contested, from Allen Ginsberg to Amy Sonnie. In response, we must read and honor all the words of our lesbian, bisexual, female-identifying, and queer sisters. Then, we must write our own.

The last few pages of A Room of One’s Own will have you absolutely soaring. This is a book that should be in every woman’s personal library as it is a fabulous introduction to our girl Virginia, a sweeping journey through centuries of women’s history and literature, and a call to arms for us women – all of Shakespeare’s sisters – to tell our story.

digitaldivide

This month’s book selection is Digital Divide by K.B. Spangler. Initially described as a kind of sci-fi mystery tale with a lesbian protagonist, I found that that, indeed was exactly what the book delivered.

Set in a near-future alternate Earth where several hundred people have been turned into, essentially, cyborgs in order to become ultimate weapons for the United States government, our protagonist is Rachel Peng, one of these first human-machine hybrids. Blind in real life, technology gives her the ability to see, not just in the visible light spectrum but in many other intriguing spectrums as well. The technology also allows them to ‘plug in’ to the internet, or any electronic device – they can hack into systems with nothing more than a thought.

Writing about this kind of thing can be tricky, because the writer runs the risk of a) using useless, dated jargon and skipping any kind of realism completely in order to make the tech more interesting or b) going too far into the mechanics of how such a theoretical system might actually work and turning their work of fiction into a dry treatise. Neither of these options is especially pleasurable for the reader. Spangler has, fortunately, walked the narrow line between these two extremes and delivered an adequate compromise.

I say adequate because it is just that. There are no groundbreaking new ideas here – it’s essentially basic human meets machine, which is something that’s already been covered by quite a few great science fiction writers. But though it’s a bit generic, it’s certainly not bad.

In terms of the plot itself, the story follows Rachel Peng, who works for the government and is attempting to prove to the world that she is not a scary cyborg monster but a real human being with real human emotions. Meanwhile a shadowy antagonist pulls several stunts in order to make the cyborgs look bad, so Rachel and her team must track him down and stop him, all while maintaining their image in the public eye. There are explosions and gunshots and sleuthing.

In terms of Rachel, our protagonist, she is a lesbian though it is not made a plot point. It is simply another aspect of her, like her hair color or shoe size. I find this refreshing to encounter in literature, and think it’s a good trend. Using a character’s sexual orientation as a cheap way to stereotype their personality, appearance, or behaviours, to turn a character into a caricature, is annoying at best and offensive at worst. However, through the course of this book Rachel is never romantically involved with anyone else; her feelings, at least in terms of sexual relationships, is never discussed. Which is fine. It’s not a love story, after all; it’s a sci-fi cop novel. Just be aware that if you’re looking for lesbian love, or romance, it’s not found in this book.

Overall, I found the writing engaging and the story complex and intriguing enough to keep me through to the end. It was nice to see a strong female lesbian character in fiction, especially in this genre. It’s a light read, something great for taking on the train or to the beach (for all you Northern Hemisphere denizens who are heading into summer.) If you’re a fan of science fiction, or police mystery novels, then I think you’ll enjoy this book!

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