Softly Finding Your Place: Pluralities by Avi Silver

Posted 29th August 2023 by Sia in Queer Lit, Reviews, Sci-Fi Reviews / 6 Comments

Pluralities by Avi Silver
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy, Speculative Fiction
Representation: Nonbinary MC, trans bestie, nonbinary spaceship
PoV: First-person, past-tense; third-person past-tense.
Published on: 3rd October 2023
ISBN: 1961654016
Goodreads
four-stars

"Wait—rewind. I was still a girl back then, before the universes converged."

Guided by premonitions and a fateful car ride, a burned-out retail worker stumbles into the grand exit from womanhood. Meanwhile, in a galaxy not so far away, an alien prince goes rogue with his sentient spaceship, seeking purpose in the great glimmering void. As the two of them come together in a fusion of mind and body, they must reckon with the identities that have been assigned to them.

Tender and daring, Pluralities is a slipstream-meets-space-adventure story honouring the long and turbulent journey into gender euphoria.

“Years into my own journey, this story was especially meaningful to me. I love that the narrative is filled with queer love, friendship, and euphoria. This novella doesn’t shy away from challenging questions about the intersection of feminism and trans identity, and it doesn’t offer glib answers, but faces those questions head-on. I found the read experience-broadening, and hope this book finds the audience it deserves.” — José Pablo Iriarte, Hugo and Nebula Finalist

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Highlights

~more lightbulbs = wordier spaceship
~Stardew Valley obsession
~alien ex-princes need hugs
~if it’s your shirt or your pride, go topless
~a Significant strap-on

Pluralities is a beautiful velvet dream of a book, odd and gentle, defying easy categorisation as thoroughly as its characters do. It’s not quite like anything I’ve ever read before, more introspective and meditative than plot-driven, and it’s left me feeling pleasantly thoughtful.

There are two stories told side by side: in a world that might almost be ours, a college-aged-ish person grapples with the growing certainty that they’re not a woman; and out in space, an alien prince flees his royal role with his best friend, a sentient spaceship. It should be jarring – at first glance, these two stories are completely different, as if they don’t belong in the same book. But it’s not jarring. Somehow it is perfectly correct. Somehow these very different stories complement each other, reflect each other, and, eventually, blur together into one.

I think I read Pluralities at the wrong time, when outside circumstances left me too numb for the love and joy in this book to really reach me. But they shine out of every page, conveyed by light, beautiful prose that manages to be easy and approachable even when dealing with tough or tricky topics. Silver breaks down the confusion, exploration, and euphoria of a person discovering their gender into terms a CIS reader can understand and appreciate; I loved the the parallel drawn between a person figuring out that they’re nonbinary, and a CIS person trying to understand what nonbinary even means – both people in that scenario are confused, often about the same aspects of it! It’s generally not a quick and simple thing for the nonbinary person in the equation, either.

I wasn’t sorted into Box A instead of Box B at birth–I fell off the assembly line altogether.

Basically: if you think the concept of being nonbinary is hard to grasp, imagine trying to understand it from the inside!

something had fundamentally changed within me.

Well, no, I don’t know if changed is the right word. It had always been there. But now I was looking at it, and more importantly, it was looking back.

It had more eyes than I expected.

Our alien not-prince, Cornelius, is a many-eyed sweetheart, and it’s not hard to empathise with his literal search across the galaxy for purpose and identity. His relationship with Bo – the sentient spaceship who, imo, is the star of the book! – is so deep and inalienable (hah) that it catches in your throat. And I cannot tell you how much I adored Bo’s – backstory? origin story? Learning where it came from and that it’s far from the only one. Silver keeps the worldbuilding simple, but it’s always interesting, and quality definitely comes before quantity on this.

And on the other side from our aliens we have our (nameless) first-person human narrator, whose ability to see visions when they touch other people is balanced by their VERY relatable plunge into Stardew Valley–

When we finally paused long enough to do that Hollywood heavy-breathing-eye-contact thing, I watched the crease of doubt return to his face. I recognized the look, the classic worry that comes after a first kiss, the fear that somehow one act of physicality will manage to change the fundamentals of a relationship. The exhausted fear of losing what you had by acting on only one part of what you wanted.

I was trying to figure out how to explain how much I didn’t want that to happen when I looked over his shoulder at the television screen. “Dude!”

“What?”

“You didn’t pause?!”

“Oh shit–“

“We just lost like four hours!” I shouted. “And we still need to get Clint that fucking iron!”

He all but shoved me to the side, grabbing at the controller and cursing.

I CACKLED.

The whole book is like that – balancing the speculative elements with the very familiar, anchoring the difficult-to-grasp concepts (like sentient spaceships and being nonbinary) in the human element (not the best choice of words, seeing as we’re talking about aliens too, but you know what I mean). It creates the comforting, stress-less aura of being in a dream, where things can be weird and wonderful without being frightening; strange and delightful, but also normalised. Which is very much part of what makes Pluralities an oddly relaxing read, despite the (arguably) heavy themes.

And if it needs saying – yes, the rep is spot-on. I really liked the struggle of balancing the idea of the Divine Feminine with the whole not-being-a-girl; as someone who fell hard into Wicca back in the day (and was thus very into the whole Divine Feminine thing at one point) I get it – and that’s not an aspect of discovering-your-nonbinary-ness that I’ve seen talked about before, how weirdly difficult it is to break away from a gender when you don’t want to insult that gender, the complicated guilt of that process. It really is me-not-you, honest.

Pluralities isn’t a space opera, and it’s not an urban fantasy where the MC uses their visions to solve/prevent crimes. It’s a warm fluffy blanket, and a hug, and quiet magic of both the speculative and non-pejoratively mundane kind. This isn’t the right book if you’re looking for fast-paced action, but if you’ve been craving something soft and thoughtful and loving – with spaceships that talk through lightbulbs and trans besties living their best lives in Stardew Valley – then it’s absolutely perfect.

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6 responses to “Softly Finding Your Place: Pluralities by Avi Silver

  1. This sounds beautiful – not where I am right now, but I’ve half had my eye on it for the future and your review is very persuasive.

    • Sia

      It’s so wonderful to hear that – I was NOT happy with this review, it really doesn’t do the book justice. Which I’m sure you’ll enjoy when you get to it/are up to it <3

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