Monday, July 25, 2022

A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys


I requested this book from Netgalley based on the recommendation of Seanan McGuire, one of my favorite authors who often recommends books on Twitter that I end up liking. It’s billed as a new take on a first contact story, which I was really in the mood for - I feel like I’m reading a lot more fantasy lately and not enough science fiction. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy fantasy, I do! But science fiction is where my heart lies, and between Hugo reading and other stuff, I realized I’m reading a lot more fantasy than science fiction and I miss spaceships and robots. A Half-Built Garden doesn’t have any robots,  it it has some cool spaceships in it so that’s a win!

But seriously- the main conceit in the book is that a near-future Earth is just barely climbing it’s way out of a climate crisis, and traditional governments and corporations don’t hold the same kind of sway they used to - at least not everywhere. Instead there are a number of environmental reclamation zones that are self-governed by a mixture of leading edge science and Reddit-style consensus. The Earth stuff alone is fascinating and well-written and I could’ve devoured another 200 pages of backstory here. But into this world lands an alien ship making contact - these aliens destroyed their world and live on a ringworld and are seeking out other life forms to rescue them from what they believe is the inevitable doom of a planetary existence. The rub is that humanity is divided - the corporations are ready to jump ship and strip mine a whole new solar system, while the protagonists want to have a chance to actually finish fixing the earth and don’t want to be forced to leave. 

This was a truly wonderful book. I even enjoyed the parts I didn’t like - for example, I found the multiparty-marriage setup of the protagonists to be off putting and unpleasant- mainly because the narrator and her primary wife seemed to have rushed into it and it didn’t feel like a fully realized, vibrant relationship. I also felt like the corporate presentation veered towards caricature on occasions. But overall the story felt honest and loving and kind and just what I wonted. It was also nice to see a Jewish protagonist that actually felt Jewish. Representation matters, and I always like to feel like there is a place for me in this genre. 

Thanks to Tor and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

I also got an audiobook eARC from MacMillian Audio and NetGalley and it was excellent! Sometimes lately I find narrators too slow for me and I need to speed them up, but not here! The narrator was excellent.