Book Review: You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 1/Stand Alone
Publisher: Tor Books (November 16, 2021)
Length: 320 pages
At the edge of the known universe sits TwiceFar station, home to Niko Larson, formerly of the Grand Military of the Hive Mind, who has left admiralship to start a restaurant business. Together with her kitchen crew of mostly fellow ex-Hivemind members, they’ve built quite a name for themselves out of the Last Chance, even if they are pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. Which is why, when rumors start floating around that the renowned food critic might be on their way for a visit, Niko knows how a good review could make all the difference.
As the story begins, Niko’s entire staff is working around the clock preparing for the critic’s arrival. At the very last minute though, the surprise arrival of a glitzy playboy in his sleek, fancy, state-of-the-art and absurdly expensive bioship called the You Sexy Thing throws a wrench into their plans. Normally, Niko would have turned him away, but the playboy also happens to be a big fan of the food critic who is coming and is willing to pay big bucks to share a meal with her, and with the amount he’s offering, Niko could hardly refuse…what could go wrong anyway?
Well, as it turns out, a lot. For scarcely after their esteemed guests have been seated, an explosion rocks TwiceFar, killing many on the station including the playboy. Before his death, however, Niko had managed to gain the passcodes to his bioship, You Sexy Thing, which she and her crew ends up using to escape. Unfortunately though, this feisty sentient ship has other plans. Believing its new passengers to be thieves, it programs a path to a prison planet instead, where Niko and her friends would be promptly arrested upon their arrival.
First, I just have the say, there was a good story here, but the execution? Not so smooth. From the start, the pacing was wonky, spending too much time on the intro with the Last Chance’s preparations for the food critic, which dragged on far longer than required. Then the action starts, Niko and her crew run afoul of space pirates, and to the plot’s credit, there’s some very interesting albeit bitter history there between the protagonist and the head pirate Tubal.
Still, at this point, I just didn’t know what this book was trying to be. Was it supposed to be a lighthearted, ensemble cast-type space adventure akin to Wayfarers or Firefly? If so, that impression gets blasted away by the later sections, some of which are filled with over-the-top and offputtingly brutal torture scenes. The villain is almost a caricature, as in, short of wearing a sign around his neck that says, “Look at me, look how diabolically evil I am, muahahaha!” you can’t get more obvious that he’s supposed to be a very bad guy who does very bad things. Then there was Petalia, a former lover of Niko’s, whose rancor made me go from thoroughly enjoying myself with this book to being extremely annoyed. Granted, given what she’d been through, I understood her resentment, but it was a shame that the handling of her behaviors and attitude was just so one-dimensional and contrived.
That said, I did love Niko and her mostly alien crew. In their relationships and the diversity, I could see and understand the comparisons to Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, not to mention that really cool element of food or love of cooking that ties them all together. My favorite character other than Niko was probably her head chef Dabry, whose loyalty to her in one particular scene near the end of the book where he gives Petalia a piece of his mind was particularly touching and literally made me do a jumping fist pump in the air. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the titular bioship, whose chapters added a different, “living A.I.” perspective to shake things up.
Bottom line, I think You Sexy Thing has a lot going for it, among them a core group of likeable characters and an adventurous storyline. What hurts it the most, however, is a combination of questionable pacing and lack of focus. I still had a good time with the book, mainly because there are certain unique aspects to it that I don’t think you can get anywhere else, but on the whole I think this falls pretty squarely in the “standard sci-fi space opera” category, which means that if you are a more avid reader of the genre, you’re going to need more.