You Sexy Thing
by Cat Rambo
A disgraced captain of a mind-linked battle group, a mysterious package, and an attack on a space station just as an important food critic comes to the captain’s restaurant start off this (on the short side) science fiction novel.
Niko and her former battle crew now own a restaurant. They are saving money for a special mission Niko has been working towards for years, and if they can impress a famous critic with their food maybe their business will pick up enough to make enough to finally implement this mission.
We meet Niko, her right-hand man Darby, and a host of interesting and loveable other crew members (now turned restaurant workers) such as a sentient octopus like alien focused on touching everything, an avian pastry chef, two rambunctious teenage were-lions, and a smelly reptilian mystic.
Niko gets a mysterious package, the critic arrives, and then their space station is attacked. They must escape, and end up on a trillionaire’s sentient organic ship (who also becomes a character.)
Most of the book is take up by travel on this ship. Told in omniscient narration, the focus changes from character to character to ship quite frequently. Its easy to keep track of, but it means I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with Niko or Darby. There’s a lot of the ship figuring out emotions and analyzing sentient being patterns of behavior in reference to its own programming– it reminded me intensely of reading Martha Well’s Murderbot Diaries in that sense– and sometimes the slightly detached, clinical analysis tone of one character bleeds into the next despite some of them being aliens or nonbinary, etc.
But the fun of this book is not only hanging with the ship (the titular “You Sexy Thing”) as it becomes more self-aware and learns to cook from Darby (the food parts were a bit disappointing to me, quite alot of discussion of “class three protein” etc when it could have been quite the extra wordly sensory feast) but also uncovering what Niko’s secret mission is and why she’s been obsessively reading a Non-fiction book about space pirates.
It ends with the crew set up for more adventures, so I hope that means the series will continue.