I’ve just finished reading Floating Worlds, by Cecilia Holland. The novel follows an anarchist, Paula Mendoza, negotiating a peace treaty with what are basically “space orcs”.
There were a few things that really impressed me about this book.
Firstly, the writing style, which reminded me of George Orwell’s in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Holland writes in short, simple sentences, almost entirely in the present moment. There are no asides for future plans, past history, or even setting information. Just immediate details, and a smattering of dialogue, are enough for her to build the world.
Secondly, the non-combat protagonist. This book has fighting and war in it, but Paula Mendoza isn’t a fighter, and never becomes one.
I’ve seen a similar case of low-violence protagonist, high-violence world before, in Charles Stross’s Merchant Princes series. Those books have been re-written since, but in the editions I read it felt like the protagonist would never be allowed to accomplish anything, and I gave up on them.
For most of the book, I thought Holland had avoided this. Wherever she is, Paula is never caught up in anyone else’s wake for long, and never rests on anyone’s laurels. Then I read the ending. Story-wise, it ties the plot off nicely. But, again like Nineteen Eighty-Four, it leaves me wondering how much agency Paula really had.
There’s more I could talk about, but suffice it to say I really enjoyed this book.
I should warn you, though. Floating Worlds contains scenes of: rape, torture, slavery, racism, sexism, domestic violence, and the aforementioned fighting and war. If you’re still interested after that list, I can absolutely recommend it.