You would think that as I age and have more disposable income (at least in theory) and more control over my free time (at least in theory) that I would get better, not worse, at reading series … but no. So here I am, partaking in Devil’s Gun, having not read You Sexy Thing first. I don’t know if the first book in this series from Cat Rambo just passed me by or if I passed on it because the title made it sound like not my kind of thing. If it was the latter, that was a mistake, for this series delivers delightful and surprisingly cozy space opera. I’m sure I won’t be alone in comparing this to Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series (though I have also managed to somehow not read all of those as well). I received an eARC from NetGalley and Tor in exchange for a review.
Picking up on the events of the book I didn’t read, Devil’s Gun follows the now-legitimized crew of the You Sexy Thing, a sentient bioship. It’s a ragtag crew very much giving Farscape vibes, and I am here for it. They spend this book processing trauma from the first while trying to figure out their next move, which eventually comes down to finding the eponymous MacGuffin in the hopes that it will help them deal with the space pirate who is hunting them all. Oh, and there’s clones and con artists and all manner of discussion of food.
I took a chance that it was OK I hadn’t read the first book, and that gamble paid off big. Firstly, Rambo has written the book in such a way that despite definitely not being standalone you can slide into this world and still understand the characters and their current struggles. Secondly, this book provides a synopsis of You Sexy Thing at the start—thank you! I really do wish more series did this; it improved my experience of this book immensely. Thus, while I recommend you read the first book, you don’t need to.
The cast is delightfully diverse and varied in how they deal with situations. I think I am (re)learning how much I enjoy space opera involving heterogeneous crews rather than the military SF or adjacent setups of more rigid, hierarchal structures. Niko is captain, sure, but she has far from the last word about You Sexy Thing—and Thing itself has a startling level of “ask for forgiveness” attitude about it. This all makes for a great deal of drama and conflict, though it is often very low stakes. Through a hopping, limited third-person narrator, we get to know some of the characters more than others. Overall, I love how Rambo develops each of them. Atlanta is probably my favourite in that respect.
Similarly, I loved following along as Rambo fleshed out the larger universe. They draw easily on established tropes (like an extinct civilization literally called the Forerunners) to create their own unique take on a cosmopolitan, intergalactic society. I especially love how they set up what appears to be a great and dramatic mystery surrounding the Gates, arguably the most important Forerunner tech around, only to provide an anticlimactic solution near the end of the book in what is almost a throwaway line. This firmly establishes Devil’s Gun as “cozy” science fiction. Yes, there are hardships and existential conflict; on the other hand, the conflict is extremely interpersonal.
If you’re looking for space battles and military strategy or high-stakes, boots-on-the-ground combat, you won’t get it here. But if you want arguments, people sneaking around behind each other’s backs, a sarcastic sentient spaceship, and more such shenanigans—then, yeah, Devil’s Gun and the previous book in this series are going to be just your thing.