What can I say, Charlie Jane Anders is a badass. I fell in love with her writing when I picked up All The Birds In The Sky in a bookstore years ago, and have been a fan ever since. Besides being an awesome author, she co-runs the brilliant Our Opinions Are Correct podcast all about speculative fiction (I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t yet). And now she’s written her first YA novel. Victories Greater Than Death is a fun queer found-family romp through space!
Massive thanks to Titan and Netgalley for an eARC of this brilliant novel. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 13/04/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Tina never worries about being ‘ordinary’–she doesn’t have to, since she’s known practically forever that she’s not just Tina Mains, average teenager and beloved daughter. She’s also the keeper of an interplanetary rescue beacon, and one day soon, it’s going to activate, and then her dreams of saving all the worlds and adventuring among the stars will finally be possible. Tina’s legacy, after all, is intergalactic–she is the hidden clone of a famed alien hero, left on Earth disguised as a human to give the universe another chance to defeat a terrible evil.
But when the beacon activates, it turns out that Tina’s destiny isn’t quite what she expected. Things are far more dangerous than she ever assumed–and everyone in the galaxy is expecting her to actually be the brilliant tactician and legendary savior Captain Thaoh Argentian, but Tina….is just Tina. And the Royal Fleet is losing the war, badly–the starship that found her is on the run and they barely manage to escape Earth with the planet still intact.
Luckily, Tina is surrounded by a crew she can trust, and her best friend Rachel, and she is still determined to save all the worlds. But first she’ll have to save herself. (from Titan Books)
OPINIONS: This was such an incredibly fun book to read. Take Charlie Jane Anders’ smart science fiction for adults, cross it with the ridiculousness of Doctor Who and add a good pinch of queer found family. I loved the cast of human teen misfits being drafted aboard a space ship to try and save the galaxy, led by Tina, a legendary general reborn. It’s hard to pick favourites – Tina, slowly getting memory back from her past life and turning into a huge purple alien, Rachael, the ‘ordinary friend’ who has to deal with anxiety on top of being in space, or Elza, Brazilian badass with bonding issues, among others. I just want to hug them all and reassure them.
This book is full of diversity, both on surface level, but also deeper down. Rachael’s issues with anxiety are described with nuance and resonated a lot with me. Most characters introduce themselves with their pronouns immediately, and many choose to use neopronouns. Victories Greater Than Death has queerness in its bones, and I love it. I also really appreciated how, in her acknowledgements, Charlie Jane mentions multiple sensitivity readers for different aspects of the book. It shows the care and effort that she put into this.
All of this is packaged in a big-scale space adventure, both thrilling and fun. And yes, the teens are more skilled and powerful than they have any right to be, but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story. The enemy operates with a weapon that changes the perception of its victims in the eyes of their friends and allies, and if that’s not scary I don’t know what is. It’s brilliant escapism, think Firefly-style shenanigans but with a misfit gang of teens. Read it.