Those of you that were reading the blog a couple of days ago will have seen an interview and guest post from Heather Massey of the Galaxy Express. What you probably don’t know is that she’s been a huge assistance behind the scenes for this event, keeping me right! To my immense and everlasting gratitude, she offered a couple of what she refers to as “tag posts” which is similar to a book review but rather than providing an opinion, she lets you know what to expect from a book. As a special part of Diverse Books Month, she has provided tag posts for two diverse books and I’m pleased to share them with you below:
When Love Clashes With Futuristic Politics: Restoration by KS Augustin
By Heather Massey
KS Augustin is a Malaysian-based author of color and she regularly writes SF and SFR featuring diverse characters. Restoration, her latest release, is a socio-political oriented science fiction romance and like much of her other work, offers readers a cerebral romance with heart.
Below I’m presenting non-spoiler tags based on my impression of this novel-length book so you can see what it has to offer! First, here’s the blurb:
In politics, is there a place for love?
Van Motaff, renowned philosopher and Rahfonist, is looking ahead to Retirement, but the planetary government has other plans. Something unprecedented has happened—a young, male Rahfoni has been raised by aliens for the past thirty years—and Van has been chosen to restore him to Rahfon society.
Even though the eyes of two worlds are on her, Van thinks the job will be straightforward enough. But when her charge, Eton Abless, is injured, an irate governor interferes, demanding that the young man be neutralised as a potential political threat. Van resists and finds herself falling into a forbidden romance with her student…a romance that may mean the end of her reputation and career, and his permanent exile. As her options narrow, Van is forced to face the conclusion that the only way to save Eton may be to lose him completely.
In random order, here are my tags for KS Augustin’s Restoration:
* Restoration takes place on a distant planet in a far-future, non-Western setting
* contact has been made with alien species, all of which are presented with intriguing details about the societies and cultures
* the story features a mature, older heroine with a fully-realized life, including friendships, family, career, and the complications that come with her advancing age
* this is a character-driven story and prompts one to reflect on the impact of major life changes and milestones
* the plot focuses on Van’s day-to-day work with Eton and their forbidden romance. If there was one element I would have liked to see more of in this story, it would be the actual techniques Van uses to help Eton integrate into Rahfon society. Van has a very unique job!
* Restoration offers a May-December romance on the “sweet” heat level side. Van and Eton’s bond is fraught with multiple internal and external conflicts. There’s also an interesting take on how Eton’s emotional development was affected by his time among the aliens and how it influences the romance.
* the SF: romance ratio is about 60:40 since numerous political issues require resolution during the course of Van and Eton’s developing romance
* action-adventure quotient: low
* violence quotient: very low
* cool sidekick alert: Van has a quirky robotic votary in the form of a German Shepherd. It operates out of her home and assists her with duties ranging from managing her schedule to doing her shopping.
* several antagonists create obstacles to Van and Eton’s happiness and they’re bureaucratic and political in nature. This dynamic makes Restoration a good choice when you’re in the mood for a philosophy-infused sci-fi romance.
An Intriguing Intersectional Romantic SF Tale: Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension
[The following post by Heather Massey originally appeared at The Galaxy Express and is featured here, slightly modified, with permission.]
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi is worth reading for its messages about diversity alone. It’s a truly diverse futuristic setting. The thematically-rich story features a number of insightful observations about many subjects, yet does so without being dry or too academic. One can enjoy it for the surface plot alone, but there’s also a cornucopia of social commentary for post-consumption contemplation.
Check out the cover and blurb:
Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he’s a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can’t keep her eyes off her. But there’s little time for romance: Nova’s in danger and someone will do anything–even destroying planets–to get their hands on her.
Following are some non-spoiler tags to help you decide if Ascension is up your alley!
*Space opera setting. Cool descriptions of spaceship tech. The worldbuilding is a little fuzzy in terms of how everything was connected and how that reality evolved the way it did (e.g., spirit guide abilities). It didn’t detract from the story in a major way, but there’s still origin-type information I wouldn’t mind knowing about the universe the characters inhabit. There’s no hard science to speak of, so the technology parts are accessible.
*Story is told from the POV of heroine Alana Quick. Her coming-of-age journey includes frequent introspection. She aspires to become a “sky surgeon” (i.e., engineer) and have adventures among the stars.
*Alana is a disabled queer woman of color from a working class background, and diversity is represented in other characters as well.
*Types of science fiction: Philosophical, psychological, sociological, and a splash of action-adventure. Lots of Deep Thoughts.
* Ascension features a family-like cast of characters. I’ll go ahead and make the inevitable comparison: the tale has a FIREFLY-esque, ragtag crew ensemble (except Ascension is what FIREFLY would look like told from the perspective of a disabled queer woman of color!).
*The prose has a lyrical quality to it, with lots of poetic description. You may catch yourself reading some sentences a time or two to savor them. Overall, the story progresses at a leisurely pace.
*Alana has a complicated, tension-filled relationship with her sister, Nova. Nova is a “spirit guide.” She’s kind of like STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION’s Deanna Troi, only more powerful.
*Notable element: women characters are the default in this story.
*The story features polyamorous relationships executed in a mature way that serves the story.
*I’d tag Ascension as veering toward romantic SF. The romance is subtle and despite the accelerated pace of Alana’s “love at first sight” attraction, develops at a slow burn. Heat level: mild. It was a bit too underdeveloped for my taste. But for readers who go into Ascension mainly for the SF part, it might be just the right amount.
*There are tragic moments, but the story has a hopeful ending.
Ascension has received much buzz—in large part for its diverse characters—and it’s great to witness a book combining SF, romance, and diversity garner so much attention.
About the author
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express. She’s also an author in the subgenre. To learn more about her published work, visit heathermassey.com.