Mar 29
2021

Booklist on Escaping Exodus: Symbiosis

Escaping Exodus: Symbiosis by Nicky Drayden

“In Drayden’s Escaping Exodus series, humans carve out lives in the bodies of space creatures called the Zenzee, capturing a new home whenever an old one wears out. In the first volume (Escaping Exodus, 2019), the matriarchal, polyamorous society realized their Zenzee had consciousness, and committed to respecting and restoring their world as much as possible, living with minimum negative impact. This second volume starts with now-ruler Doka and his wife, Seske, fighting for this new reality, which has made many unhappy, leading to political stagnation. Meanwhile, they are uncovering new secrets and issues that introduce even more turbulence. Drayden’s novel trades off humor with dark reality, connecting this sf world to our own questions of cooperation, gender inequality, and, most of all, our relationship to our planet….Escaping Exodus: Symbiosis is, at its core, rooted in a fascinating world that presents intriguing questions to its readers, as well as driven, complex, and often queer characters.” — Booklist

May 21
2020

Kirkus on Overwatch: The Hero of Numbani

Overwatch: The Hero of Numbani by Nicky Drayden

“Young roboticist Efi dreams of creating a better life for her community, where omnics and humans live peacefully, in this novel inspired by the video game Overwatch. Efi spends so many hours in her workshop ironing out bugs in her robots that her mother worries she isn’t connecting enough with best friends Naade and Hassana. But her work pays off when Efi wins the Genius Grant given out by her idol, Gabrielle Adawe, who founded both the organization Overwatch and the African city of Numbani. On the way to Rio de Janeiro to celebrate, Doomfist, who should be in prison, attacks the airport. The destruction left in Doomfist’s wake spurs Efi to put her grant money toward developing Orisa, a compassionate robot that can protect the city she loves. The immense pressure of this project strains the three friends’ relationship, forcing Efi to go it alone. While Efi teaches Orisa to integrate into Numbani, Orisa teaches her about responsibility and friendship—and as Dooomfist provokes discord between omnics and humans, Efi, Naade, and Hassana must come together to save Numbani. Drayden (Escaping Exodus, 2019, etc.) gives Efi a clear voice in this engrossing read with smooth pacing and action-packed scenes. The main storyline is tied up enough to keep readers satisfied but interested in the sequel; readers don’t need to be familiar with the video game to understand the book. All characters are black. Readers will root for this STEM-focused girl hero.” — Kirkus

Feb 4
2020

2019 Locus Recommended Reading List

The 2019 Locus Recommended Reading List includes Elizabeth Bear, Nicky Drayden, Yoon Ha Lee, and Tamsyn Muir!

NOVELS – SCIENCE FICTION

Ancestral Night, Elizabeth Bear (Saga; Gollancz)
Escaping Exodus, Nicky Drayden (Harper Voyager US)

NOVELS – FANTASY

The Red-Stained Wings, Elizabeth Bear (Tor)

YOUNG ADULT NOVELS

Dragon Pearl, Yoon Ha Lee (Disney Hyperion)

FIRST NOVELS

Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)

COLLECTIONS

Hexarchate Stories, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US & UK)

NOVELLAS

“A Time to Reap“, Elizabeth Bear (Uncanny 12/19)
“Glass Cannon”, Yoon Ha Lee (Hexarchate Stories)

NOVELETTES

“Erase, Erase, Erase”, Elizabeth Bear (F&SF 9-10/19)

SHORT STORIES

“Lest We Forget“, Elizabeth Bear (Uncanny 5-6/19)

Nov 29
2019

Booklist starred review for Escaping Exodus

Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden

“Drayden’s latest (after Temper, 2018) is a sweeping, smart, stunning story that dazzles brighter than a star system. Seske Kaleigh is the young heir to the command of a starship that is comprised of the insides of a whale-like space beast. Adalla is her best friend and lover of a lower caste. The young girls are among the descendants of Africa, who resettled among the stars and rely on whale-like space beasts to keep them alive. They carve out cities within the interior body cavern of the beasts and make a home there until the beast begins to die. Then, they move on, catching and carving up the next beast in order to ensure their continued survival. When their clan’s newest excavated beast is assailed with violent tremors, the girls embark on a journey to unearth the cause and save their people’s new home. The premise of Escaping Exodus is a biology lover’s dream, with an animal’s bones being used for building material and its circulatory system for mass transit. Yet, Drayden excels in writing the tech in a way that will reach out and ensnares every reader—not just biology geeks. She has created a whimsical, complex, rich setting whose world is the literal anatomy of a beast. Interwoven with the body horror, environmentalism, and classism that Drayden artfully explores is a love story between two Black girls from different castes, making Escaping Exodus a true gem to be treasured.” — Booklist, Starred Review

Oct 17
2019

B&N SFF on Escaping Exodus

Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden

“Nicky Drayden’s novels are weird—and I mean that as the highest of compliments.

Her genre-blending debut The Prey of Gods landed on the scene in 2017 with the self-same subtlety of a Roman candle stuck up your nose. Artificial intelligence and African folklore, mind control and murder, demigods and dik-diks, The Prey of Gods has everything. Her sophomore effort, Temper, an Afrofuturist romp through a world in which your social identity is defined by your balance of vice and virtue, continued in the same audacious vein, plus twice the world-building.

Now comes Escaping Exodus, Drayden’s third novel, as pleasantly and characteristically bonkers as ever. Eschewing her established skill at tossing science fiction and fantasy together in a blender, she leans full into her Octavia Butler fineries and drops us aboard a city-size starship carved in the innards of a drifting space beast.

Seske and Adalla’s relationship is compelling and serves as the framework for all the plot to come (including a few wild tangents that complicate matters significantly), but it is this theme of environmental justice that is the novel’s central concern. As Seske learns to lead, she grapples with the devastating consequences of her people’s way of life to the beast that carries them. Adalla, on the other hand, becomes obsessed with the class inequality that fuels the system. These twin threads feel true enough to our own time, and thoroughly modern, while aligning with science fiction’s long history of climate-focused, socially conscious works.

Both threads are also entwined with one of Drayden’s recurring concerns: the construct of gender and the subversion of its norms. Gender fluidity and explorative sexuality are key components of The Prey of Gods. Here, Drayden likewise flips gender roles on their head by crafting a matriarchal society focused on containing the population: families are composed of multiple mothers and fathers but are limited to one child apiece, in a setup that feels reminiscent of Butler’s Xenogenesis series.

In opposition to contemporary daydreams of smashing the patriarchy, Drayden’s society is far from a utopia. It is cruel and rigid: gender norms haven’t vanished, they’ve reversed, with men treated as second-class citizens, considered disposable and deemed unfit for much more than housework and child-rearing. While the situation may sound cathartic to some readers, its reality is troublesome and counter-productive, an inequity sowing seeds of rebellion every bit as much as Adalla’s realizations galvanize the working class.

Life aboard this spacebeast is chaotic, the mess tolerated so long as it’s hidden beneath a certain set of creature comforts. The question before both Seske and Adalla is what to do when the mess finds it way to the light.

While that’s a pickle for the characters, it’s a playground for Drayden, whose specialty is narrative chaos. In a rather stuffed novel, her outsized sci-fi sensibilities enliven the worldbuilding while allowing her characters emotional room to grieve, to fight, and to love, believably and heart-achingly.

However you slice it, Escaping Exodus doesn’t follow the path you think it will, and neither does its author. And that’s the fun of it all.” — Barnes & Noble SFF

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