A living ship capable of traversing space.
The cruelties of survival.
Young women who do *not* like following the rules.
The beginnings of a revolution.
If any of those elements are what you love seeing in sci-fi, you'll want to dive right into ESCAPING EXODUS by Nicky Drayden. From the magnificently described world inside a space-faring beast, to the intricately established and explained caste system of the protagonists' society -- if there's one thing this book absolutely delivers on, it's the world-building. And as a stand alone novel, Drayden does a fantastic job answering or explaining the world and society the book's set in by showing what's happening through the lives of our protagonists as their experiences shape their worldview.
ESCAPING EXODUS is set mostly inside of an alien the size of a small moon, capable of traveling through space. Inside this 'beast' are the remains of a human society adapted to the confines of life within a living organism. The society, matriarchal in nature, mines the beasts for the resources they need to survive and when it's been exhausted, they move onto the next. What's really fun about how Drayden tells us all this is through the dual perspectives of our protagonists. From chapter one, we're rooted in Seske's perspective -- she's the heir to the throne, eager to rule, but a brash decision maker clouded by her privilege of status. In alternating chapters, we're alongside Adalla, a beastworker (someone who works to care for the beast), who becomes dissatisfied with the way society ignores the downtrodden. What's brilliant about these two leading the reader through the story is that while they start as close childhood friends, the reader sees how their experiences in their community shapes their burgeoning identity as women and their responses to how to solve what they see as problems with the life they live inside the beast. Both still want the best for their people, but it's engrossing to see how strikingly different they each come to that conclusion.
Drayden's a phenomenal writer. Even though each chapter alternates between Adalla's and Seske's perspectives, their voices are wholly distinct from one another and each feel fully fleshed out. And what's really excellent about how this book is written is how accessible the language is. Sci-fi can be an intimidating genre for readers who aren't fond of technical language or concepts -- ESCAPING EXODUS is not that. Despite the intricacies of the society and how the ship works, Drayden makes sure that everything is described with such a visceral feel, it's easy to immerse yourself in the story.
ESCAPING EXODUS accomplishes a lot at once -- Drayden touches on elements of class consciousness/warfare, human greed and callousness, bigotry, sapphic love, non-traditional family structures and more, which I absolutely LOVED. The world is complicated and I can only imagine as our society evolves through time, it will continue to be complicated, albeit in very different ways. Drayden totally delivers on a world that makes you ponder what our existence could look like if everything we knew about about home and lives had to adapt to such an extreme change. It also makes you think about how we currently live our lives -- do we as humans give more than we take back from the world? How do we fix that? Do we deserve to fix it?
If you're looking for a thrilling, queer, and unique sci-fi read that will provide a deeply physical, visceral reading experience -- I highly recommend adding ESCAPING EXODUS to the TBR! If you would like to learn more about or read ESCAPING EXODUS by Nicky Drayden, please click here.
NOTE: This book features material that may triggering to some readers, including -- body horror, violence, death, and slavery.