How are we doing? Ready for a bit of feminist science fiction?
Of course we are!
I recently (well…recently to writing this I’m not 100% sure when this will go up) read Laura Lam’s Goldilocks which claimed to be “a bold and thought-provoking new thriller for readers of The Martian and The Handmaid’s Tale.” So you can see why I was interested.
The Earth is in environmental collapse. The future of humanity hangs in the balance. But a team of women are preparing to save it. Even if they’ll need to steal a spaceship to do it.
Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.
The team is humanity’s last hope for survival, and Valerie has gathered the best women for the mission: an ace pilot who is one of the only astronauts ever to have gone to Mars; a brilliant engineer tasked with keeping the ship fully operational; and an experienced doctor to keep the crew alive. And then there’s Naomi Lovelace, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, who has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity to step out of Valerie’s shadow and make a difference.
The problem is that they’re not the authorized crew, even if Valerie was the one to fully plan the voyage. When their mission is stolen from them, they steal the ship bound for the new planet.
But when things start going wrong on board, Naomi begins to suspect that someone is concealing a terrible secret — and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared . . .
I’ll start by saying that I loved the concept for this book. The first few chapters of this book where it goes into the crew stealing the spaceship is one of those ‘fist punching the air’ feminist fiction moments – of course I want to read a bunch of female scientists saying screw you to the people trying to steal their work and hijacking a spaceship! It’s a great start to a book and I’ll be looking for this strong of an opening in similar books in the future.
I’m the first to say that space survival as a genre isn’t my cup of tea. It’s not that I don’t think the books are entertaining I just find it really upsetting to deal with the idea of being in an environment where you might suddenly not be able to breathe – any other asthma/chronic respiratory condition people with me? But this book managed to bring in so many other threats to existence (not a sentence that would normally make me happy) so it feels like a much more nuanced look at what it would take to stay alive on long haul space travel than just ‘oh there is no air outside’.
What’s interesting about this book is that it isn’t simply about escape, but about the earth these women leave behind and the terrible things that are happening there. For the most part, Lam managed to avoid creating a narrative of ‘oh no the men we have left behind whatever shall we do’ and instead it’s about responsibility, and justice and…a whole other bunch of ethical decision making that I wasn’t expecting. So, while it is a thriller, this book has a lot of the more emotional aspects that I would expect from a less-thrilling science fiction book.
Potential small spoiler in the next paragraph read at your own risk.
My other personal issue with this book was that I felt like one particular plotline (I won’t say too much but it involves pregnancy) felt like it took over the book. I think that might be a wonderful thing for some readers but for various reasons – mostly my total lack of desire to be pregnant at any point – I just wasn’t here for it as much as I might have been. I don’t think I would have minded if it had felt more like a side plot but the focus just felt a little imbalanced to me.
Some aspects of this book are quite difficult to read, there are some important issues tackled. If you’re trying to completely avoid any virus-related content I’d maybe leave this one for a little while. But I think this book does what science fiction does really well, it poses questions that, while we may not be thinking about them now, we’ll almost certainly have to face a variant of at some point – and who is to say we can’t apply some of that thinking to our lives now?
Overall, I thought this was a good book but not one I’ll be tempted to repeatedly re-read. I pondered over the star rating for this one, but I think so many of the things that bothered me were personal things I had to plump for the 4 stars.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Goldilocks is out April 30th!
What say you? Will you be picking this up – what other science fiction do you recommend – yes I have read Becky Chambers! Let me know in the comments below!