The All-Consuming World – Cassandra Khaw

The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw is one of those books that coasts on vibes. And because one of the important locations of the story is a planet called Dimmuborgir, and it is an angry queer space opera, I can’t resist starting this review with a Dimmu Borgir song – I love that the band’s vibes fit the book’s vibes so well. So press play, and have the fitting soundtrack to get you into the right mood.

And we’re back with the second space opera of the week. The All-Consuming World is a very different kettle of fish to Far From the Light of Heaven, though, much less streamlined and linear, and far grittier and queer. I really enjoyed the reading experience of this one too but this one will be much more of a Marmite type book, dividing opinion as it is ultimately something very special. Massive thanks to Marty at Erewhon for sending me a review copy, all opinions are my own.

RELEASE DATE: 07/09/2021


SUMMARY: Maya has died and been resurrected into countless cyborg bodies through the years of a long, dangerous career with the infamous Dirty Dozen, the most storied crew of criminals in the galaxy, at least before their untimely and gruesome demise.

Decades later, she and her diverse team of broken, diminished outlaws must get back together to solve the mystery of their last, disastrous mission and to rescue a missing and much-changed comrade… but they’re not the only ones in pursuit of the secret at the heart of the planet Dimmuborgir. 

The highly evolved AI of the galaxy have their own agenda and will do whatever it takes to keep humanity from ever regaining control. As Maya and her comrades spiral closer to uncovering the AIs’ vast conspiracy, this band of violent women—half-clone and half-machine—must battle their own traumas and a universe of sapient ageships who want them dead, in order to settle their affairs once and for all. (from Erewhon)

OPINIONS: So this one is quite special. It’s really a Marmite book I think that is dividing opinions – I personally really enjoyed it, but I can see how this will definitely not work for everyone. Have a read of my thoughts and see if The All-Consuming World might be one for you. This book really lives off vibes more so than coherent storytelling. It is all about the characters and the world that they move in, and in that sense, it reminds me a bit of the brilliant Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo – which is an entirely different book, as it is a gothic dark academia novel, but it similarly focuses on vibes and atmosphere over plot.

Think of this as weird along the lines of Gideon the Ninth, edgy like Jay Kristoff (but less problematic) and fun like a very dark episode of Doctor Who with a dash of Becky Chambers. This isn’t a book for the faint of heart – there is surgery that happens while the character is awake, on the page, for example, so do heed the content warnings. The official ones are depictions of abusive relationships, mentioned character death, codependency, emotional manipulation, eye trauma, gaslighting, grief and surgery without anesthesia. It sounds like a long list of difficult topics, but it didn’t read like a heavy book to me – though that might be speaking from a position of privilege as my wounds are in very different places.

While The All-Consuming World is pitched as a heist book, it doesn’t feel like one. It’s mostly an angry queer book, set in space, where you get to know the characters, their stories and their problems. It doesn’t always feel like there is too much to the story, but ultimately I didn’t mind that. I cared about the characters, and I was emotionally invested, which is always the most crucial for me personally. I just loved being along for the ride with these characters and enjoyed my experience. It is a book that functions like a Black Metal album for me – escapism, forgetting the world and how shit it is by sinking into noise.

Add The All-Consuming World to your Goodreads here, and order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

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