- The Good: More wonderfully gross world-building
- The Bad: Poor pacing throughout, rushed plot threads, and limited character development
- The Literary: Alternating POVs; themes of classism, sexuality, and environmentalism
The last remnant of humanity lives inside giant space-faring creatures called Zenzee, which are going extinct thanks to generations of abuse and exploitation. In Escaping Exodus, the predecessor to this novel, a new leader rose to power to change humanity’s ways in an attempt to save their home and the Zenzee species. Now, political rivals appear at every turn, especially since the arrival of thousands of refugees, crowding their limited space, taking up resources, and threatening their culture.
I really like the world-building of this series, in which humanity exists inside of a giant space beast, complete with puddles of sticky fluids, harmful smelly gases, and the threat of being thrown out of the third ass. In this second installment, the characters go to a couple of new areas of the body, but they don’t capture the wonder and imagination of the first book, except for one notable scene in the brain in which they have to escape before an oncoming lightening storm.
That being said, I find the cultural exploration in this sequel more intriguing. Through the protagonists Seske and Doka you learn the intricacies of family units in this matriarchal society, which consist of three sets of throuples. Seske and Doka were once married, but even with the annulment they’re still in the same family unit. Tensions arise when their relationship turns sexual, because relations outside of the throuple unit are taboo.
Small cultural things are of interest. Seske especially takes pride and has identity wrapped up in her hair. Hair is worn in intricate braids that communicate family names and lines. Combing her hair out with an old bone comb chills her. I even love the little mentions of familiar food items, which are so far removed from our earthly habitat, it’s clear they aren’t the same things. Lime tarts are made with something that has little squiggly legs and cheese is thorny. And big cultural things are explored when Seske and Doka live with the refugees, with their own language, tech, and family units.
The structure is similar to the first book, in which alternating viewpoints advance the story. The second POV in this sequel is a Doka, so we get to see the domineering matriarchal society from the perspective of the male sex. Doka is a good counterpoint to Seske, as their strengths and reactions to external stimuli are quite different, but I wish their voices were different as well, like with Seske and Adalla in the first book.
The sections of the book follow a biological pattern, Parasitism, Commensalism, Mutualism, and Symbiosis, all of which, on the whole, is about the relationship between humanity and the Zenzee, but it also parallels the relationship between the two human societies, and even the relationship between Seske and Doka. The overall arc of the plot is quite nice, and the ending is surprisingly good, but the plotting consists of several turns, and the pacing is stop and go, with jumps in time and consequences that the characters don’t have emotional time to unpack.
I love how unique this story is in theory, but the actual plot and character motivations aren’t as compelling as the first in the series.