Padma Mehta is the proud owner of Old Windswept… and working in the sewers to pay off the unfortunate incident with the orbital lifter. She’s as prickly as ever, but she’s happy – until her distillery manager tells her the staff have stopped showing up to work, and the Union President asks her to avert a planet-wide strike…
Okay, first things first: this is awesome. Laugh out loud, cheer them on, shed a little tear level of engagement. You don’t have to have read Windswept to make sense of it, but given that Windswept is a cracking read, you should anyway. Like A Boss is cut from the same jib – Padma Mehta is grumpy and cash-strapped, and very quickly out of her depth.
I love that she’s both adored and respected by her neighbours and co-workers (she’s the Sky Queen of Justice, dammit)… and that they continually call her on her shit – fairly and otherwise. When she got faced down because where did she get the right to make a unilateral decision to blow up the goddamn lifter and save the planet I nearly had hiccups. Oh, committees. Yes, it would be lovely to have time for consultation when you’ve got less time than Flash Gordon to save the world.
Adam Rakunas delivers fast-paced prose and distracts you with Padma’s big personality and her reflex to try and solve her problems with violence (grabbing a wrench on her way to the Co-Op), but when you look at the themes these novels aren’t just screwball action comedy capers in space.
His polyglot world is a jostling hotchpotch of ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations. This is the future; as long as you’re not trying to sign them back up to the Body Corporate, nobody cares how you live your life. In playing up the tensions between those who Breached from their Corporate contracts and the Freeborn of the kampong, Rakunas still gets to explore familiar fault-lines.
So along the way to Padma’s ever-elusive six o’clock drink, Rakunas tackles globalisation, megacorporate control, democracy, socialism, labour politics, corruption, and mental health – this time adding the politics of privilege and anger for good measure. The joy and the delight is that he does all this without weighing down his bounding heroine from her insane day to day.
But don’t let me give you the wrong idea: this is not big message political fiction. It’s gloriously entertaining SF.
Better yet, it’s positive, hopeful, idealistic SF. Even more so than Windswept, Like A Boss is a laugh-in-your-face rejection of grimdark cynicism and cyberpunk dystopia. It’s a flag-waving, singing-out-loud celebration of people doing the right thing even though it will be hard (and conscious of the cost to themselves), because they know it’s the right thing to do, damn it. It’s a celebration of hope and trust and community. I loved it.
Okay, spoiler time (mouse over to read): one of my great delights is that the situation is ultimately resolved without violence. Yes, a lot of shit gets blown up, but not by Padma (for once). Nor does she actually apply her wrench. The planet-wide political crisis is resolved by conversation and expanding foam, and the villains are hauled off for trial, not shot in a final act of expedient confrontation.
I’m assuming book three will focus on the renegotiation of the Contract, so there’s an opportunity for it to be all about compromise and dirty deals. I trust Adam Rakunas – and ever-hot-tempered Padma – to find another way. Regardless, I’ll be right up there in the queue to get my hands on a copy.
Like A Boss will be released on 7th June 2016. Windswept is available now.
I received a free copy from Angry Robot Books in exchange for an honest review.