Escaping Exodus (Amazon Link)
Author : Nicky Drayden
Published By : HarperCollins, Harper Voyager
Year Published : October 15, 2019
Genre / Tags : Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Space Opera, Experimental, Light Romance, Speculative Fiction, also in my opinion- New Adult
Formats : Paperback, eBook
# of Pages : 336 pages (Paperback)
Escaping Exodus is a story of a young woman named Seske Kaleigh, heir to the command of a biological, city-size starship carved up from the insides of a spacefaring beast. Her clan has just now culled their latest ship and the workers are busy stripping down the bonework for building materials, rerouting the circulatory system for mass transit, and preparing the cavernous creature for the onslaught of the general populous still in stasis. It’s all a part of the cycle her clan had instituted centuries ago—excavate the new beast, expand into its barely-living carcass, extinguish its resources over the course of a decade, then escape in a highly coordinated exodus back into stasis until they cull the next beast from the diminishing herd.
And of course there wouldn’t be much of a story if things didn’t go terribly, terribly wrong.
Note : Many thanks to Netgalley, HarperCollins Publishers, and Harper Voyager for providing me an e-ARC of this title for review.
This book is definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but I’ll mention first and foremost that it gets a 5/5 on Goodreads from me, issues and all, because the characterization and storyline had me consistently riveted. Finished the whole second half within a sitting. Even when imagery got murky, very out there, and almost beyond comprehension- I was always invested in the characters and happenings of this weird world. There is enthusiastic creativity in the telling of it, and astonishing development given the modest 300-some page count.
One disclosure first, and something that may inform my thoughts on certain aspects- I haven’t read much science fiction. Liked much of what I’ve tried, but am still muchly a stranger to those shores. This is a sort of science fiction/speculative fiction/fantasy hybrid with a thrust toward experimental world building rather than space exploration.
First, the writing style. First impression was positive. The narrative is told from two points of view with the main characters just entering adulthood. Though I’ve never seen it shelved as New Adult, I think this title could easily be ushered into that category due to the age of the main characters. This book is filled with terms unique to its world, presented on nearly every page. The writing feels thick due to this attention to detail and demands the reader to learn through context and process sometimes murky and otherworldly imagery. I finished this title in six hours but it felt longer and like it would consume more energy than a more rhythmical and flowy read would. Not a bad writing style by any means, but I could see it being too dense for some. What I do like is how eventful the pages are, to an almost chaotic degree late in the book where the author has so many ideas and pulls them off at a faster pace. The first half of this book is noticeably more orderly than the second half.
Not related to the technical good and bad but I feel it’s important to mention sooner rather than later- this is a weird read. Almost challengingly so, with some gross passages and nearly inexplicable customs. This title takes place far, far in the future- where humanity and ways of life have evolved to an otherworldly degree. Cultural customs, food, ways of showing affection, pets, all sorts of nitty-gritty things are different in this world. Even simple travel involves characters navigating the flesh of a giant space creature. However, I loved how the things I didn’t like juxtaposed with what worked for a fascinating effect, encouraging one to empathize more with the world. An example of this, there is a space monster baby that probes one of the main character’s facial orifices as a way of bonding. I was pretty grossed out by the related descriptions but said baby is also an innocent creature whose life is being threatened. It still reaches out the heroine, perhaps not understanding that her species has been hurting it. I grew to feel for the strange little guy and wanted the main characters to successfully protect it.
About the relationships in this book. There is some romance. Not central to the story, but it’s there. Some enemies-to-lovers, friends-to-lovers, friends-to-enemies, starcrossed, basically all the stuff I happen to like was somehow included and a huge surprise to find. The otherworldly quality remains though and makes things like the intimacy between the characters come off in a very odd manner. But somehow I was really out here shipping one of the main characters (Seske) with everybody. Seske falls for two characters (a man and woman) who are treated with shockingly equal care and chemistry. Theirs isn’t a love triangle because the culture of the world here normalizes a sort of bi polyamory. I’ve actually rarely-to-never seen this done in any form of media, adding even more to this title’s uniqueness.
Winding back a bit to characterization and the points-of-view, Seske and Adala are the young heroines of this tale and raised in a matriarchal society. I really enjoyed how different these characters are from one another, harmonizing to provide a fuller view of the world.
Seske is of noble lineage and her chapters deal with revealing the workings of their hierarchial society. She is quite privileged, but also expected to shoulder the great responsibility of directing their world in more harrowing times and perhaps breaking away from tradition. She’s also a flawed character who makes some poor decisions. Adala is a girl of a lower caste and class, considered by many to be amidst the disposable. Through her we grow to understand how the people of the world are suffering and their need for change.
Adala’s chapters are more action and adventure-oriented. Adala and Seske are the main couple of the book and their relationship has major ups and downs due to their differences. I liked both of them. The dual narration encourages an understanding for both sides, even when they can’t fully understand each other.
Overall Rating – 8.5/10
Why You Should Try It – Bizarre but creative and inventive world-building. Vivid characterization and motivations. Fantastical imagery and space opera drama. The romance is of a surprising variety. Impressively full-scale storyline befitting a 600-page novel, accomplished within the tighter framework of 330 pages. Daringly experimental and unlike any title I’ve read before.
Why You Might Not Like It – Some imagery is a challenge to come to grips with or even mind-boggling and/or gross in nature. While I liked the brisker pace of later chapters, the frenzy can come off as messy. Seske, one of the main characters, makes some poor decisions that can annoy.
Escaping Exodus (Amazon Link)
This book has one of the prettiest covers I’ve encountered this year. Was a little worried it might be too out of my usual comfort zone.. so pleasantly surprised to find it engaging and worthwhile. I usually give only books ranking as 9 or 10 a 5/5 on Goodreads but decided to round this one up since for me anyway, that extra matter of the book’s wild creativity makes it special. I hope people who are looking for something experimental and ambitious will give it a try.
Thanks so much for reading this review of Escaping Exodus! Are you interested in it, or have already read it? Do you have any speculative fiction recommendations? Always appreciate your comments and likes. ~ Kitty