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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

What I'm Reading: In the Black by Tomlinson

Sometimes I have non horror reviews up at Booklist and here is an example of a SF series starter that I highly recommend for all libraries. As always this is my draft review with more information to help you hand-sell it to readers

In the Black

by Patrick Tomlinson

Oct. 2020. 352p. Tor, paper, $19.99 (9781250302755); e-book, $9.99 (9781250302762)First published September 1, 2020 (Booklist).

Tomlinson is back with another crowd pleasing, snarky, thought provoking, character driven tale, this time starting a new series that melds military science fiction with space opera featuring a 70 year cold war on the brink of turning hot between humans and the Xre, an insect-crab hybrid species, a far off frontier planet, and a giant corporation funding it all. But the plot is not why readers will be drawn to this novel. It is the three engaging protagonists, Captain Susan Kamala, human commander of the Ansari, Derstu Thuk commander of a Xre ship, and Tyson Abington, CEO of Agless Corp, and their overlapping narrations that allow the reader to see the conflict from three completely different perspectives, that will draw readers in. It is through their development, the stellar world building, and Tomlinson’s ability to subtly, but seriously, examine our current moment using a speculative lens while still injecting humor and bounce into an old-standby subgenre that makes this series opener such a compelling read. An easy suggestion to fans of John Scalzi, Catherine Asaro, or Yoon Ha Lee.

Further Appeal: As I mentioned in the review above, the action unfolds from three perspectives, Human- Captain Susan Kamala, Xre- Derstu Thuk, and Human, Agless CEO Tyson Abington, but it is in the overlapping of similar scenes from different perspectives where this book shines. 

The world building of the Xre and their culture, Suan and Thuk’s commitment to peace against all odds, and Tomlinson’s ability to seriously examine our current moment using a speculative lens while still injecting humor will attract reader new to the military SF subgenre. In fact, I would argue that Tomlinson adds a new "bounce" to this old subgenre. 

The plot is NOT the reason people will read this. It is the characters and the thought provoking social commentary. The best science fiction uses a situation that cannot actually be at this moment and then uses it to examine the current moment it is written in. Tomlinson achieves this. 

There is lots of humor here both overt and subtle, sprinkled throughout-- at any time. It's snarky humor, tongue in cheek. 

Readalikes: The three above for sure. Also a great  options for fans of the The Expanse either TV or books. I also think Murder Bot fans would enjoy this too. 

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