Part social allegory, part thrill-ride, the first novel in a new space opera trilogy follows a comfort woman as she claims her agency, a soldier questioning his allegiances, and a non-binary hero out to save the solar system.
Linden A. Lewis's debut novel The First Sister...is a lot of fun, as stylish as it is substantial. Would you like your space opera with the social commentary and swaggery cool of Alexandre Dumas, with a dash of Cowboy Bebop and some awesome queer characters? Are you interested in political maneuverings and space economics, fantastically rich worldbuilding and sneaky spy stories? Read on. First Sister might be just the book you've been waiting for ... Lewis shows us power and how those who have it use those who don't, what power looks like from within and without, and the consequences of systemic failures in different societies ... There's a great deal of heart in The First Sister, where the future is sleek and messy, saturated colors and gritty shadows both. The scientific marvels of the Icarii will stay with me, poisonous environment and physical bodies transformed, as full of glory as a sunset ... The First Sister is also an enjoyable action-adventure in space with likable characters, engagingly cinematic visuals, and high Cool Factor. I came out of reading The First Sister keen to spend more time in Linden A. Lewis' solar system. I want to see what happens next.
...where once the novelty of multiple queer protagonists in a reasonably well-drawn, well-written SFnal future might alone have spurred my enthusiasm, these days I have the luxury of expecting more ... Which leaves me in ambivalent position. Because there’s the bones of an excellent novel underneath Lewis’s The First Sister, a novel with the potential to engage deeply with questions of autonomy, power, and consent, and the queering—in multiple senses of the word—of bodies and identities. But those bones are thoroughly buried by The First Sister‘s rush to embrace dystopia without committing to a full reckoning of its horrors, and its inability to fully connect the personal with the political ... lacks the ability to link the individual and the societal on a thematic level, and loses a great deal of power thereby ... The First Sister might have disappointed my highest hopes, but Lewis has made a promising start, and I look forward to seeing where she goes from here.
Lewis presents a new science fiction universe, but she’s a poor historian of that universe, leaving the reader confused about important aspects of its origin. She invents diverse characters in difficult, conflict-ridden situations, but their personalities are almost blank, their narrative voices interchangeable. She creates a twisty, interlocking plot, but its final switchbacks strain credulity. It’s a book that just barely misses the mark at nearly all its levels, and is thus a frustrating experience ... The First Sister is an unready book, a novel with fewer merits than demerits, and an unfortunate start to a new author’s career.