The thing about Stina Leicht’s latest novel, Persephone Station, is that it’s remarkable not for what it does but for what it is. The story itself is bog standard: a ragtag group of misfits is hired to defend an outpost of innocents against a group of corporate marauders whose vengeful leader has complicated reasons for the attack. In space! There are a few interesting twists and turns, but the pacing served to kill all suspense for me as we rocketed along to the ending. It’s a perfectly serviceable, perfectly fine space Western/opera with several cool but hardly groundbreaking ideas about sentience and aliens and what the future might look like.
What sets PS apart from the rest of its sci-fi brethren tho is how the vast majority of characters are female or nonbinary. It’s not merely a gender swapped sort of story, tho it certainly prompts the reader to consider how men are usually the default in, not just books like these, but most adventure stories. Each woman or nonbinary person is a whole character with an agenda, back story and motivations that make sense for them, and they’re created with such a decisive female-centered gaze that you almost forget most books aren’t like this. It’s really weirdly refreshing. It’s not that the gender roles are reversed, or that men are diminished or nonexistent: it’s just a tale of female and nonbinary adventurers fighting and/or protecting each other, kicking ass and taking names. Men exist in this universe, but in this tale, they’re supporting characters who are peripheral to the storylines, as Ms Leicht deliberately focuses on everyone else.
I’m not saying that this is the kind of book I want to read all the time, but I did enjoy how quietly subversive it is for a space Western/opera to remind readers that you don’t need guys to make for an interesting story. It’s okay to not have guys be a motivator or otherwise important part of a narrative, fictional or otherwise. It’s okay for them to shush so that everyone else gets a turn to be the hero or bad guy or best friend or secretive boss. Even the male love interests are only on for a few pages so we can get back to the meat of the story. And it’s all dealt with so matter-of-factly that you probably wouldn’t even notice how few guys there are till the end, and you likely wouldn’t care.
PS is a nice way to reset one’s reading in this new year of 2021, to gently expand your frame of reference to include women and nonbinary people as capable of playing all roles in a story. Bonus for that story being a rollicking space opera, hardly the most female-dominated field.
Persephone Station by Stina Leicht will be published tomorrow January 5th, 2021 by Saga Press and is available for pre-order from all good booksellers, including
Want it now? For the Kindle version, click here.