Thursday, May 21, 2020

Goldilocks by Laura Lam

She said her goodbyes, one by one. She spoke out loud to them, her voice soft but unwavering. Sharing her memories, thanking them for what they had learned, what they had taught her. If they could speak, would they accept their fate? Or would they beg, plead, fight for the same chance at life?

If you've seen anything about this book, you've likely seen the formula that it's The Handmaid's Tale meets The Martian, and that's a pretty apt pitch. US society has turned so conservative that women have been pushed from their jobs. Earth has been so destroyed that there's urgent need to move to a new planet and one has been found in a "Goldilocks"-zone: not too hot, not too cold.

Goldilocks by Laura Lam
Orbit, 2020
Review copy via publisher
Read Harder reading challenge

Valerie Black, genius inventor, has been building toward this momentous event -- with technology, money, and skilled crew. Her ward, Naomi Lovelace, is to be the crew's biologist. The rest of the crew, all women, are as talented and dedicated, and their launch to start work on their new home planet goes without a hitch. Except for the fact that they've stolen this shuttle.

Told from Naomi's viewpoint, the story slips between the past and present, providing hints and clues toward the variety of mysteries Lam creates: how Earth got to be the way it is; Valerie's meteoric rise and Naomi's painful history. And finally, what happened once they stole the shuttle.

It's an incredible premise and one that just captivated me. If I had a complaint, it's that I wish this book could have been double the length, to give us more time to breathe into the characters and their lives in this increasingly challenging world.

Despite being a very speedy read there are surprisingly deep ethical quandaries presented (although I confess I personally hated how things shook out). Lam grounds the twists and decisions in the personalities of her characters so I can't complain about why things went the way they did -- I just wanted something else. (I suspect the decisions and whatnot will make this a really great book club read -- lots of juicy choices to argue over!)

Lam includes something like five pages of acknowledgments and notes at the end of this book, including details of all the science and law that shaped the story. It stood out to me especially as I finished The Overstory at the same time, another novel loaded with references that ought to have been named -- but weren't. It frustrated me that Powers wasn't asked or expected to prove his inspiration while Lam was/is. That has nothing to do with the content of this novel, but something that stood out to me, especially given this book's focus on unequal treatment of female-identified people.

Apropos of nothing, I am so struck by the book's cover, which I haven't seen in person; my e-reader isn't in color, so I sort of tuned it out, but in finding the color version for this blog post, I can see how perfect it is for this story. I won't say anything else.


  1. Okay okay wait I have questions. First of all, is this book gory? The last one I read by her was, and I had a hard time with it because I am fearful and nervous. B, how does it work itself out and what didn't you like about it? I am so curious! You can say spoilers!

    Finally, I know what you mean about dudes/women -- the assumption of incompetence is something that women (people of all marginalized genders, really!) labor under that's totally exhausting. That said, like, if I wrote a book and included a million notes in the back, which let's face it, I would, it would MAINLY be because I was excited to share what was real and what was made up because the real stuff is always bananas interesting. Plus I like to show off if I feel I've done a clever job of integrating the real with the imaginary. :P

    1. Not gory in the slightest! My goodreads review has spoilers for the 2 things that I was disappointed by and if you end up reading this, I'd love to hear your thoughts. It probably won't bother all readers, but I'm particularly sensitive to when people undermine arguments for equality with outrageous, extremist thinking (in which it's clear it's meant to be horrifying and not, like, thought-provoking-non-dominant-culture-pushes-back).

      And I'm with you on the notes -- I loooooooooooooove them and was really mad that The Overstory didn't have any -- I picked up huge things I think needed acknowledment and who knows what I missed?!

  2. I wasn't sure about this one, but well, maybe I should take a second look, despite some things that disappointed you. I'm not in a book club, but I can always argue my thoughts with myself. LOL