I received this book for free in exchange for a review via Netgalley, all opinions are my own.
Hunted by those who want to study his gravity powers, Jes makes his way to the best place for a mixed-species fugitive to blend in: the pleasure moon where everyone just wants to be lost in the party. It doesn’t take long for him to catch the attention of the crime boss who owns the resort-casino where he lands a circus job, and when the boss gets wind of the bounty on Jes’ head, he makes an offer: do anything and everything asked of him or face vivisection.
With no other options, Jes fulfills the requests: espionage, torture, demolition. But when the boss sets the circus up to take the fall for his about-to-get-busted narcotics operation, Jes and his friends decide to bring the mobster down. And if Jes can also avoid going back to being the prize subject of a scientist who can’t wait to dissect him? Even better.
I was almost certain I’d enjoy this book based on the plot and setting alone. I’m pretty sure I’ve written before about how it’s almost impossible to tell a boring story set in a fascinating setting like a theme park or assassin’s guild. Circuses definitely make the list; and having a diverse cast of gender identities, sexualities and relationship dynamics (polyamory rarely makes an appearance, even in sci-fi) only added to the appeal of The Circus Infinite, and the reality of the book did not disappoint. The descriptions of the circus acts and culture of the performers was a great way to drive the plot and reveal character developments, and I loved the way the act developed along with Jes’s relationship with the crew, and familiarity with his own skills.
The characters are definitely my favourite part of the book—found family is one of my favourite tropes, and The Circus Infinite delivers in spades. A variety of species and cultures are developed in this novel, and not just developed but challenged. One of my pet peeves with sci fi is the way different planets or races are sometimes portrayed as a monolith, with all of the people from a particular planet looking, behaving or believing in similar ways. I loved the way this was challenged in The Circus Infinite, as various societies seemed to be in the process of questioning long-held beliefs as cultures combined and interacted more. I think it added the grounding touch that helped all of the colourful characters and possibilities of the world seem realistic, without making them any less fun.
The plot of the novel was interesting and fast moving, as both criminal, personal and social pressures kept things moving at all times without seeming repetitive. I do wish some aspects of the plot didn’t seem to happen due to coincidences or unlikely connections, but as always when world-building and a full cast of characters is being developed, some things have to take a back seat. I don’t think there were any glaring plot holes or eye-rolling coincidences, just a few points that seemed a little less filled in than I would have liked. I don’t know if this novel is a stand-alone or the beginning of a series, but I would gladly read more books in this world, exploring the happenings of Persephone 9.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from this author, and I think anyone who enjoys fun, original sci-fi will feel the same. I have a strange collection of recommendations for people who enjoyed this book/want to know if they might. First of all, the straightforward comparisons. I was reminded at various points of Ella West’s Thieves and Gail Carriger’s The Fifth Gender. If you read and enjoyed those books, or enjoyed this one and want more suggestions, these are probably your best bet. Likewise, fans of Nora Sakavic’s All for the Game series might like this book for the found family/runaway learning to trust and queer romance elements. In terms of themes and novel looks into a world most people have likely never experienced, I think Kate Mascarenhas’s The Thief on the Winged Horse has several parallels, and if you enjoy entertaining characters with equally entertaining settings, Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series is a great choice. The Circus Infinite releases on March 8th 2022, and I’ll also make sure to post a reminder on my blog closer to time.