You Sexy Thing
Written by Cat Rambo
Published by Tom Doherty Associates
November 16, 2021
Paperback, 304 pages
Captain Niko Larsen and her crew have escaped the Holy Hive Mind, which if I have it right, is a type of mental web where a person’s consciousness is stored in a collective that draws from everyone’s experiences. (Think the Empire plus the Borg plus Zuckerberg’s metaverse.) The only way to escape permanent absorption is to have an artistic talent, and Larsen has pulled her crew into running a restaurant — The Last Chance, located on a far-flung space station known as TwiceFar.
That’s a basic establishment of the setting, and the story starts to roll out from there following the arrival of a famous restaurant critic and a wealthy visitor who owns a sentient living starship, You Sexy Thing. When Larsen and her crew find themselves on board the ship facing peril from multiple sides, including a threat from Larsen’s past as a Free Trader (freighter captain, smuggler, scoundrel?).
I wasn’t sure what to expect before I cracked this open, but it’s pretty standard space opera fare, complete with faster-than-light drives and aliens bent on dominating the galaxy (and one race that just sees the entire galaxy as their playground — literally!) You Sexy Thing has echoes of Moira from Farscape, but is more advanced in that she can communicate directly with Larsen and her crew. She’s also got the ability to learn, and their time spent together provides plenty of opportunities for the ship to learn a great many things from social interactions to friendship to the importance of a good meal.
Niko and Dabry, her four-armed Sergeant and best friend and chef, have a long-sufffering rapport throughout the book. I found it easy to believe these two have known each other for a long while, have been through a lot of hellish things together. Indeed, the camaraderie between Niko’s entire crew feels lived in, so when the stakes get higher, there’s a genuine concern between them, especially when it starts to look like not everyone is going to survive.
The notion of a living ship isn’t new, but Rambo takes the idea and puts a new spin on it, with the ship able to replicate pretty much anything out of its own organic structure anywhere inside its walls. The fact that the ship is also sentient adds another emotional layer to the plight of Niko’s crew, mainly because the ship is partially responsible for the situation. But as they continue on their journey, watching the ship learn new things and start to enjoy learning new things made for a nice refresh of what could easily have become a trope.
The pace of the book zips along, not too quickly, not too skimpy on details. It feels like a story universe where I could stay a while, and as it’s the first book, I know there are going to be the usual expected points where the reader has to be introduced to everyone and everything in this world. Rambo deftly weaves those pieces of exposition into the dialogue and flashes back to earlier encounters in a way that’s organic to where we are in the story.
The only quibble I have is the use of the “they” pronoun for a single character. I frequently had to remind myself that this is just one character we’re talking about, and that was slightly annoying, but it wasn’t enough to be jarring or take me out of the story. I’m old. “They” is plural for me.
Still and all, it’s a good story. A fun read with a slightly rushed third act — I would have liked to see more of their final destination — but solid with good believable characters that I can see myself re-visiting from time to time.