Trans Liberty Riot Brigade by L.M. Pierce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"I ain't a man neither. I mean, what are we really?"
"Well...what do ya feel?"
"I'm me. I'm just-Andi. Whatever that means."
Unique, bold and intriguing. Overall, a fantastic book. The social and political themes are woven into the story quite well, though there were some parts where I found myself wanting more. But, given that this novel is the first in a series and the author is busily working to get Book II into our hands, it makes sense some elements need to be withheld for future exploration.
Our main character is an intersex 'Transgressor' who holds tightly onto her identity in a society that wants nothing more than to assign her to a binary sex. The world building is excellent and the narrator comes up with the most astounding, and sometimes HILARIOUS, ways of describing the places she finds herself in as she navigates a harsh and restrictive world. I love a character who swears even more than I do.
There's no romance in this novel, if that's what you're looking for. This is first and foremost a speculative fiction book, which is something I personally approve of. Not that I don't love a romantic sub-plot...but I do feel that the LGBTIQ+ market for novels tends to be flooded with romance stories and, fairly often, the 'genre books' don't embrace their genres as much as they could, but rather use genre settings (eg. the future, space etc.) as yet-another-backdrop for romance. As such, I was really pleased to read a science-fiction novel that does what sci-fi is meant to do: it delves into the deepest parts of our social, political, and personal identities and holds a mirror up so we can better explore the vices and hopes of humanity. Sexual and gender identities were a key part of the landscape because they're relevant to those themes, not because they facilitate a central relationship between two romantically involved characters.
Andi speaks a futuristic style of English that some readers may find difficult at first, but I got used to it within about 30 pages or so (especially when I worked out the difference between 'the brass' and a 'clunker'). The author did an amazing job of using situations, settings, and tone to help us understand the colloquialisms without intruding and just outright telling us what things meant. Two other characters (Puddin' and Boy) challenged me though, and I had to re-read some of their sentences to work out what they were saying. To be fair though, that was the whole point. Different people spoke with different dialects because of their social situations, so though it was challenging and I did get frustrated (very) briefly, it was also authentic and made sense for the context of the story.
My only real quibble was that I finished the book still not really sure what the Brigade was up to, aside from being a kind of group where Transgressors could feel more accepted. I never felt clear on what their 'missions' were (aside from the graffiti/general public menace stuff mentioned in the prologue) and how it was that there could be more than one branch. This is probably something that'll make a lot more sense as the series continues and I definitely plan on reading the next one when it comes out - I'm guessing in about a year, perhaps.
I recommend this book - especially to those who genuinely love science fiction and fantasy.