Much thanks to NetGalley and Angry Robot for the eARC.
Rig is a Nightbird, a rebel who does odd jobs—like rescuing refugees—to eke out a living beyond the control of the three factions fighting over the control of the galaxy. She is also Kashrini, a species whose homeworld and culture have been nearly annihilated by her former faction—Pyrite—and now Rig does all she can to preserve any Kashrini artifacts she can get her hands on. Alas, Pyrite Intelligence has decided it needs to retrieve the schematics for nanotech weapons that Rig designed for them once upon a time. And they are not the only ones who would be interested in that power.
The first thing you’re going to notice about Bluebird is the frequency of action sequences. Seriously, this book is jam-packed with them. We go barely a scene before someone picks a fight. That might be annoying in less-deft hands, but Pierlot makes it work. I’m not huge on action sequences because I don’t visualize as I read, yet I still enjoyed the majority of this novel simply because Pierlot is very good at describing what’s happening and why we should care. For that same reason, if you do visualize cinematic sequences, you are in luck.
This novel reminds me of that genre of plucky science fiction I might associate with something like Titan A.E.. Rig just does not care about interstellar politics. She wants to do good, make some money, and be left alone to her own devices—and of course, spend time with the love of her life. You can almost feel her rolling her eyes at all the people who are trying to convince her of the importance of the faction conflict.
Although Pierlot provides us with a general backstory for the origins of the factions, there is no continuity with our human history, aside from certain idioms that seem to have survived into this far future. The legends seem to imply that humans came to this galaxy from another (the Milky Way?), but their method of arrival resulted in their fracture into the three factions that have since messed it up for everyone else. Typical humanity, amirite? Again, some people might feel disappointed that this mythos is unexplained—and again, I say, it works well here. It’s the point, actually, because as Rig tries to explain to Ginka, no faction has the full story—not even the Nightbirds. It’s pointless to fight about something you can’t be certain about because you weren’t there.
The third element that I really enjoyed was the relationship between Rig and June. I liked that there is clearly a lot of love and respect between them, but there is also some unresolved tension as a result of the vast differences in their lifestyles. There is an important conversation between June and Ginka early in the book, followed by a recapitulation between Rig and Ginka, that finally manifests as a tearful, heartfelt resolution between Rig and June. It feels organic, healthy, and it’s generally the type of lovely romance my aromantic self can really enjoy.
If Bluebird has any flaws, it’s that some of the characters feel larger than life and a little cartoonish in their villainery. This is the case with Lord Umbra—I mean, the whole “Lord” thing is just the start of the problem, and let’s not even talk about how he wields a sword. The whole throwback imperial vibe of Ossuary didn’t work for me, but then again, neither did the nihilistic technophilia of Pyrite. Indeed, for all that I loved the protagonists and deuteragonists of this book, there isn’t really a formidable or compelling antagonist. As a result, Bluebird’s overarching plot suffers and sputters its way into its final act.
Would I read another book in this universe? Yes, absolutely. Pierlot’s writing blends action seamlessly with careful character development, and the result is a type of compassionate science fiction I want more of in my library.
But do you really want to know what I’d like to see? A Bluebird video game. I would love to be able to play as Rig, fly the Bluebird, chat with June and Ginka, and generally be cool while inadvertently saving the galaxy. This is a universe I would play in, because even when the stakes are high, what really matters is the human connection.