Deep in the Algonquin Park, in a quiet vacation cabin, Lem finds herself whisked aboard a spaceship. Not as a test subject, not as a breeding project, not as the salvation of an alien race. No, she’s been kidnapped by these bunny looking aliens because they came to Earth to arrest her dog.
Spock, Lem’s German Shepherd, isn’t the only prisoner aboard this ship. There’s an alien that looks like an anthropomorphic horse, a bird woman, and a robot, and none of them are guilty of the crimes for which the bunnyboos have kidnapped them. The bunnyboos (that’s how Lem thinks of her captors, and how her universal translator interprets their species name) are bounty hunters, but who put a bounty on her dog?
Nothing in this place makes sense. When one of the other prisoners figures out how to break free from their cells, Lem and her new friends suddenly find themselves in charge of a ship that barely works while running from aliens who look like stuffed bunnies.
Oh, yes. And Spock can talk now.
This story feels like an obvious homage to such books as Hitchhiker’s Guide and the Red Dwarf books, with a sense of whim and randomness combined with a snarky, unreliable narrator who is more peeved at the inconvenience than frightened by the strangeness. Lem moved from England to Canada to reinvent herself, but apparently she’ll be reinventing herself in space, instead. For some reason, everyone seems to think she’s Spock’s pet, not the other way around; it’s like these people haven’t even heard of humans! Well, they have, now.
For all her fears and insecurities, Lem is brave, compassionate, and honest. When Bexley, the horse-like alien, invites Lem for a quick fuck — more as a gesture of friendship and stress release, Lem politely declines, explaining to Bexley that she is asexual. And Bexley takes it as it’s meant. Friendly, sincere, and not a rejection of her, but a polite no to the activity.
And it’s moments like this that made me so frustrated with this book. This is very much a book where style has been placed over substance, and the style — and this is completely a subjective opinion — came across to me as affected and artificial. The substance, however, when it peeked out from behind the style, was interesting and had some genuine moments, like the sobering realization that — because her heart doesn’t beat in stasis — her personal AI/translator has no way to judge how long she has been a prisoner, and no way of knowing how long ago or far away Earth is … but it’s a sentence lost in the story. Or a moment trying to explain clothing to peoples whose races didn’t see the need for what Lem called “soft armor,” not realizing that for Lem, dealing with body dismorphia of being born to a male body rather than a female one, is a necessity for more than just hot, cold, or overly dry air.
There are brief moments where gender and the lack of it — Bexley’s people have six sexual roles, and don’t see gender in the same binary fashion — are discussed, but then it’s back to fantastical aliens and contrived plot beats and characters who don’t have reactions to any of the strange, foreign, or wacky things going on around them. I wanted to like this book more than I did, because there is honest skill to the writing and interesting ideas that I think could make for some thoughtful character moments, but there was just too much effort in the way.
Again, this is only my opinion. You may find yourself entranced by the author’s work, or laughing at the madcap adventures, and if you give this book a try, I hope you enjoy it.