This book series is weird as heck but I was all in.
These books share a lot of DNA with the Dr. Who episode The Beast Below, and if you like that you need to read this.
This book is the queer-Afrofuturistic-CliFi-Dystopian Space Opera with a dash of body horror I didn’t know I needed. When I read SFF, I want to be immersed in the author’s imagination and Drayden sucked me in from page one.
Drayden introduces us to a matriarchal clan of nomadic humans who live within the body of a gigantic space-faring beast. When the beast can no longer sustain them, they begin exodus and cull a new beast to call home. Our protagonists are Seske, a member of the high-ranking contour class who is next in line to become the clan’s head matriarch, and her forbidden crush, Adalla, a member of the beastworker class– those who keep the beast operational.
Ages are never explicitly said in the book but Seske and Adalla are both around puberty age. As they come into their places as women in their society they begin to question some of the long-held traditions and uncover the secret horrors behind their clan’s delicate way of life.
The complexity and intricacy of Drayden’s world-building blew me away. She put a lot of thought into how family structure, infrastructure, agriculture and politics would work if your entire world was, essentially, the insides of an animal. Buildings are made of bone, families have a complex 9 parents to one child structure. The way Drayden slowly fills in the world and the origin of the clan was masterful. No spoonfeeding here.
My only qualm with this book is the way the matriarchy is just a bizzaro world patriarchy. The women throw around statements like “men are too delicate for politics”. That just feels uninspired to me and I wish the book hadn’t leaned so much into it.
I saw in Drayden’s bio that her work has been described as a blend of Afrofuturism and New Weird. The New Weird literary movement is new term for me and I’m still learning what it is but I am here for it.
I wanted Symbiosis to be great but it disappointed me. Symbiosis is more of a companion than a sequel to Escaping Exodus so you can just read the first one and get a complete story.
Symbiosis starts off strong and introduces some interesting new characters but the plot is all over the place and never fulfills the promises set out in the beginning. That ending came out of left field.
In the author’s note, Drayden talks about how hard it was to write this book during the pandemic and I think this book is among the media casualties of a global pandemic.
I’m not counting Drayden out, she has a couple of books in her backlist I fully intend to read and if she does more in this world I’m totally game!
I’m a lifelong reader who started blogging about YA books in 2011 but now I read in just about every genre! I love YA coming of age stories, compelling memoirs and genre bending SFF. You can find me talking all things romance at Romance and Sensibility.