Book review: Local Star by Aimee Ogden (novella)
Disclaimer: This review is based on a review copy given to me by the publisher, Interstellar Flight Press, in exchange for an honest review.
The Confederated Fleet has returned victorious from war, and all Triz wants is to join in the celebration—and especially to spend time with her war hero girlfriend, Casne. What Triz definitely does not want is to be stuck working late in the wrenchworks repairing her ex-boyfriend’s fighter craft—her ex-boyfriend Kalo, who is also a war hero and cocky as hell. But when Triz finally does get away for the celebration, the party is cut short when her girlfriend Casne is framed for a war crime. Now Triz has to team up with Kalo to clear her girlfriend’s name, uncover a conspiracy, and fight off a threat to the space habitat itself. Oh, and along the way she’ll also confront her past and insecurities, and perhaps resolve and rekindle some feelings for her ex. . .
Sometimes, author Aimee Ogden writes in the Acknowledgements section of this book, you just want a “big queer happy space romp.” And that’s exactly what Odgen delivers in Local Star, a fast-paced space adventure novella. Once the action kicks in it never flags, as Triz and Kalo race to save both Casne and their home. Along the way is plenty of banter, sparks, romance, and feels. The main romance is between Triz and Casne and Triz and Kalo (and other relationships are referenced or hinted at). Local Star is set in a future world where polyamorous family groupings are a norm; Triz’s girlfriend Casne was brought up by a parent group of four, and wants to bring Triz into a formal quad group with Casne herself, Casne’s wife Nantha, and a fourth person. A fourth person who, Casne once hoped, might be Kalo himself.
The world-building of Local Star is one of the most impressive aspects of the book. Within the slim space of a novella, Ogden creates a world that feels lived in, that feels real. The space habitat is finely described—from the living quarters to the Arcade with its restaurant and shops and bars; from the top level with its offices of Justice to the bottoms levels where the wrenchworks and recycling areas are. References to the wider war and world give a sense of depth to the world Ogden’s created. Triz and her friends are fighting a war against the “Ceebees”—The Cyberbionautic Alliance, a group of modified humans who are forcibly terraforming other planets for their use, regardless of what the original inhabitants of a planet might feel. I love the references to future biotechnology (“biopunk”) in this book. I also love the way the story encompasses both technological and social world-building/change. Triz’s world is a complicated one, with some similarities to our own, but with a social structure and culture that is also different.
For the most part, Local Star is a fun and breezy read; we’re never in any real doubt that Casne is innocent of the charges against her, or that Triz and Kalo will find a way to save the day. Nevertheless, there are still fun twists and turns, and there is some real emotional poignancy here, too—particularly in the dynamics between Casne and one of her fathers, and Triz’s role as a surrogate daughter of sorts for Casne’s parents. Triz herself is a prickly, insecure, proud, and compelling character. If you’re looking for a fun read, a sexy space romp—for, as Ogden herself calls it, “a big queer happy space romp,” this is definitely it.