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SI CLARKE (she/her) – Author of neurodiverse, culturally diverse, gender-bendy, drunken-arguments-in-the-pub science fiction. Not bang-bang-pew-pew science fiction.

Book review: Distant Gardens

Distant Gardens: Ten Stories of Exploration, Biodiversity, and Found Family
by: J.S. Fields, Heather Tracy, Sara Codair, William C. Tracy, N.L. Bates, Robin C.M. Duncan

This came up in my ARC list recently. Part of the tagline says: ‘If you like diverse stories with lesbian heroines practicing science’. Well, that had me sold.

My favourite is Jellyfish Lovepotion by JS Fields. Andrea is a snarky scientist about to leave Earth for the last time when things – as they so often do – go awry. Dew Diligence was a close second.

This brilliantly diverse anthology runs the gamut from silly and fun to eerily prescient.

Radiant by NL Bates
Anna and Chris work together to clear away discarded radioactive material off Vancouver Island.
A superhero story set in Canada. For me the focus was too much on romance and not enough in character or plot (but that’s just me).”

Jellyfish Lovepotion by JS Fields
Andrea don’t really want to leave Earth, but gets called up at short notice to join the generation ship, Lovepotion.
Romance takes a back seat to both plot and character development in this high-stakes yet snarky tale. I really enjoyed this one.

Thorns and Fur by William C Tracy
Kamuli and Bhon are on opposing sides of a war when they meet. But that can’t stop the intense attraction between the pair.

Dew Diligence: The First Fairyl@nd Story by Robin C.M. Duncan
Reeling from a bad breakup, Julia goes to stay with her grandmother in Berks for a bit.
A really fun tale with a wonderful combination of old-fashioned whimsy and legal geekery.

Killer Trees and Second Chances: An Evanstar Chronicles Story by Sara Codair
This one didn’t vibe with me, so I skipped over most of it. That’s probably because it’s set after the end of a series I’ve not read.

How to Steal a Planet by N.L. Bates
As a newly minted captain, Mae is assigned to a small mining ship. When they discover an uncharted planet and her brand new crew mutinies on her, things get weird quickly.

Brie and the Marsh Kraken by Sara Codair
Brie returns to her childhood home to find her childhood crush, Gretchen. eager to reconnect. Oh, and Gretchen’s a kraken.
Overall well-written and engaging, but the fact Brie doesn’t even bat an eyelid when she discovers Gretchen’s a mythical monster took me out of the story for a moment.

Down Among the Mushrooms by William C. Tracy
Agetha’s leading the work crew to build the new zeta radian in the colony on Lida. Management want it done ASAP, but the planet’s plant life has other plans.
This story took a while to get off the ground, but once it did, it was excellent. The science felt a bit iffy, but the struggles were all too real.

The Bibliothek Betrayal: A Quirk and Moth Debacle by Robin C.M. Duncan
Separately, both Cassie and Quirk are running from their part mistakes and successes.
The lack of dialogue tags or easy-to follow indicators made this one tough for me … which is a shame as it’s seems like a great story.

Rings: An Ardulan Tale by JS Fields
Atalant and Emn have won their wars and settled into their new life on Ardulum. Atalant is toying with the idea of proposing to Emn – but first she has to deal with outbreaks of both koalas and fruit.
I definitely got the sense this would be a lovely little wrap-up to their story – for readers who knew the characters.

I received an advance review copy via BookSirens for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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