Sunday Souçons #15

Posted 26th June 2022 by Sia in Queer Lit, Reviews, Sci-Fi Reviews / 0 Comments

soupçon/ˈsuːpsɒn,ˈsuːpsɒ̃/ noun
1. a very small quantity of something; a slight trace, as of a particular taste or flavor

Sunday Soupçons is where I scribble mini-reviews for books I don’t have the brainspace/eloquence/smarts to write about in depth – or if I just don’t have anything interesting to say beyond I LIKED IT AND YOU SHOULD READ IT TOO!

I’ve been ill and in a lot of pain this week, and both these books proved to be metaphorical lifesavers on that front. I needed immersive, well-written stories that didn’t ask too much of me, and that’s exactly what I got.

Our Child of the Stars by Stephen Cox
Genres: Sci Fi

A lost child, the family who try to protect him and the secret that refuses to stay hidden . . .

Molly and Gene Myers were happy, until tragedy blighted their hopes of children. During the years of darkness and despair, they each put their marriage in jeopardy, but now they are starting to rebuild their fragile bond.

This is the year of Woodstock and the moon landings; war is raging in Vietnam and the superpowers are threatening each other with annihilation.

Then the Meteor crashes into Amber Grove, devastating the small New England town - and changing their lives for ever. Molly, a nurse, caught up in the thick of the disaster, is given care of a desperately ill patient rescued from the wreckage: a sick boy with a remarkable appearance, an orphan who needs a mother.

And soon the whole world will be looking for him.

Cory's arrival has changed everything. And the Myers will do anything to keep him safe.

A remarkable story of warmth, tenacity and generosity of spirit, set against the backdrop of a fast-changing, terrifying decade.

I meant to read this ages ago, and it got bumped up my tbr when the sequel was published a little earlier this year; in a lot of pain and feeling pretty miserable, I reached for it, thinking it would be…easier than the big complex fantasies I usually read.

And it was! Not in a boring way, or even a very predictable way; the word that comes to mind when I want to describe Our Child of the Stars is soft. It felt soft to my brain, gentle and tender even when dramatic and/or frightening things were happening. This book had me biting my nails with tension – and cursing out some absolutely dickheaded characters! – but the overall impression for me is still…softness.

It seems like it should be a simple enough story – aliens crash into Earth, and a human couple adopts the surviving child, who they name Cory, and who has to be kept (obviously) completely secret from everyone. But Cox infuses every character with so much depth and emotion that they all shone, a gleaming constellation around Cory himself, who is very much the sun of this solar system of a cast. Cory was a pure DELIGHT, both as a character and as an alien, and as a means of showing us Earth through an outsider’s perspective – I defy anyone to not adore him utterly!

Cox’s prose impressed me – it felt like something special, with that X factor readability but a little more beautiful, evocative, sensual, than sci-fi with minimal sci-fi elements usually is. It felt soothing; I fell into it and read the whole book in under 24 hours. There’s this really lovely balance of old-school suburbia, the difficulties and joys of raising an alien, and the high-stakes last third of the book when things become dangerous and urgent.

I loved the glimpses we got of Cory’s homeworld, his memories and what he conveys of the culture of ‘the purples’ – and I have to admit at laughing out loud at how this liberal 1960s couple had no idea how to process aliens who can change sex or be nonbinary, or how they assumed Cory wasn’t being literal when he said he had two dads as well as a mother. Hah!

So yeah. I loved this a lot, and I’m really looking forward to diving into the sequel!

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: M/M

Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell's exciting debut.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat's rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam's cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam's death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war... all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

I read an early version of this back when it was posted online, so I didn’t have much interest in reading the polished-and-expanded trad-published version. But again, mentions of a sequel (well, not a direct sequel, but another book set in the same universe) nudged me to pick up the first book…

And I’m glad I did; this was another addictive read that I finished in less than a day. The prose felt simple but the storyline was plenty complicated enough to make up for it – there’s politics, miscommunications, and a conspiracy to unravel, to say nothing of all the normal complications of being abruptly thrown into an arranged marriage! I liked both Kiem and Jainan very much, and while I normally hate miscommunication plots…this one was extremely believable and painfully realistic. I wanted to give them both so many hugs!

The story really was expanded a lot from the version I read, and between that and how long it’s been since I read the original (…ten years maybe?) there was plenty to surprise me and keep me on my toes.

I wasn’t in love with the worldbuilding, but it’s the kind of story where you have to suspend your disbelief and just roll with it, and since the book is very upfront about being that kind of book, I don’t think it’s a problem. The characters, their various relationships, the politics, those were all done extremely well, and I can see why so many people love Winter’s Orbit so passionately. It’s not going on my favourites shelf, but I massively enjoyed it and strongly recommend it to anyone looking for some easily readable queer sci-fi.

What have you been reading this week?

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