I first learned about Bonnie Milani through the Sci-Fi Roundtable, an online group frequented by authors who exchange tips and guidance about how to improve their craft. One of the best things about hanging with writer types is that you discover new and interesting books based on how their creators represent themselves. “Buy my book!” Um, no thanks. “Hey, you know what’s super cool? Sharks with laser beams!” Hmm, I’m listening.
Bonnie is definitely the latter. She brings a certain amount of giddiness and excitement to the ideas she writes about. As the old saying goes, “I want to be pulled, not pushed.” Bonnie was a definite pull, so I wanted to delve into her works. Home World was the most logical starting point, and thus my journey began. (The book also won the 2016 International Evvy Award in Science Fiction, so that was a nice launching point.)
Be warned, this story is dense. I agree with one reviewer’s assessment in that it’s like Game of Thrones in space. Lots of characters, lots of interwoven plot lines, lots of genetically modified creatures screwing over other genetically modified creatures. My only critique of the story would be that it took a while to make sense of. That’s not to say that the narrative wasn’t interesting. Far from it. It just took several chapters to start connecting the dots. But after several “ooooh, so that’s why they did that” realizations, I was off to the races.
Home World is the story of Jezekiah Van Buren, a prince who returns to Earth to broker a deal with the Lupans, an enemy faction of polymorphs. A lasting peace would restore the post-apocalyptic planet to its previous glory, but would also thrust Jezekiah into a ruling position, something that he does not covet in the least. His only real desire is to pursue the woman he loves, a seasoned warrior named Keiko. But alas, his xenophobic sister will stop at nothing to throw a flaming wrench into every possible predicament.
And so begins a complex journey full of romance, diplomacy, and unflinching brutality. That last one is something I want to highlight. More often times than not, authors will pull their punches in order to appeal to the widest possible range of readers. In my opinion, this devalues the impact and can cheapen an otherwise good story. I do not enjoy reading books that are padded to be unoffensive. I would much rather experience realism that I can react to with the appropriate emotions. Home World has several jaw-dropping and mouth-covering scenes that make your stomach churn. And much to Milani’s credit, they make sense to the plot without being unduly shocking.
Needless to say, I highly recommend this book. If you are into fluffy ragtag adventures, then this read is probably not for you. But if you appreciate realistic depictions of interpersonal conflicts, complete with the brutality and bigotry that one would expect from warring factions, then you will most certainly enjoy Home World.