The description of Persephone Station intrigued me from the start. I enjoyed both television shows listed as comparable, while the line between space opera and military science fiction is a favorite of mine. It’s strange how something that falls tightly into so many tropes can be of them and something else entirely. In this case, though, the odd fit is just about perfect.
The story blends sociological science fiction and engaging combat scenes where strategies succeed or fail based on how well the defenders guess the planned attacks. It’s feminist in a focus on consent and choice. There are non-binary characters, gay couples, and a broader spectrum of possibilities than found in tradition space opera.
I think Rosie, one of the many leading characters, sums up an underlying theme well. They point out how humans are the aliens on this planet rather than those who were there before human colonization, the word itself incorrect. The Emissaries have a problematic history even before humans set down roots. I found them fascinating both in their past and how they accommodate humans so they can remain hidden.
The description, both in content and skill, enthralled me. At points, I laughed aloud while others brought me to tears. This is neither a romp nor a tragedy, but has elements of both. Life is complicated, and the right choices don’t necessarily mean health, happiness, or even survival. It’s how you stay true to yourself that matters. At least, that’s how I read the various choices made by those I sided with.
The narrative is twisted enough for me to experience momentary doubts about some of the other characters. Angel and her team are my main characters (there are enough to choose from), and so they set the bar for the rest. I didn’t always see the bigger picture, in part because of this choice, but I always had an opinion as to how I wanted things to go. The narrative is complex enough I had concerns about the rest of those I considered good guys, making for a few tense moments, or maybe more than a few.
I read my notes once I finished, and my engagement is clear. I’m hoping the characters are playing a deep game rather than betraying my favorites. Then I am enjoying a complex conversation full of double-speak, even though I don’t trust one character as far as I can throw her. The story unfolds in the unspoken as much as the events we see. This makes it a little harder to read sometimes, but also more interesting.
The book starts at a run with a powerful scene that grounds us in the bigger situation, introduces the aliens, and gives us a villain if not the full details. It’s funny to say that because such an introduction would seem to eliminate the possibility of a complex narrative. And yet, there’s much more going on, and the reasons behind what we learn aren’t exactly what they appear to be.
I’m talking around the book because even the smallest reveal offers too much detail outside of context. What I can tell you is the characters are full fleshed. You will care about them and their concerns. The story has both philosophical passages, and detailed action scenes with neat tech and team bonding. It is a fun read on many levels.
The world is a fascinating mix between the Wild West and an almost religious philosophy. The people are equally complex, coming into this moment with histories, secrets, and connections that offer strength and weakness both. I was thoroughly engaged to the point that my notes start listing things I enjoyed and then taper off into nothing as I couldn’t step back enough to comment.
This isn’t a book for everyone. I had a little trouble following Rosie’s point of view at first because of their choice of pronouns, and the feminist philosophies are very dominant at times. The human cast is almost all female as well, which might throw some readers. If, however, you embrace the book’s reality, Persephone Station offers an energetic, fast-paced story that asks you to examine your own beliefs about personhood and limits. You’re asked to choose a side in a conflict where emotions run deep and the risks are real.
P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.