Genre: science fiction – urban (also lesbians plus dinosaurs!)
Queer Representation: cis lesbian
Pearl, who is probably not an angel, works for the Resistance–an organization that does small acts of kindness to improve the overall world. Stealthily. She’s unnaturally strong. She has wings that exist in a sort of extra dimensional space pocket and is missing part of herself–a part that appears to be stored in a killer’s briefcase that may also contain an extra dimensional space pocket and dinosaurs. Having no memory of who or what she, Pearl knows she must get back the briefcase at all costs, putting her job, her lovers, and her connection to humanity on the line. But the man with the stolen briefcase has a secret of his own, and Pearl’s truth, if found, may be more than the universe can take.
Shortlisted for the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award, OCCUPY ME is urban science fiction at its best. It’s weird. It’s twisty. It’s got killers and altered states and dimensional pockets and dinosaurs. What isn’t to love?
Pearl, the main protagonist, wakes up in a refrigerator with no memories, a lot of energy that needs to be spent, and wings that may or may not actually exist in reality. Dr. Sole, the other main character, has two people living in his head and driving his meat sack body, and only one of those people is him. He’s also accidentally killed some relatives of his not-quite-dead-but-very-definitely-evil geriatric employer, which is why he has the guy’s soul in his inter dimensional briefcase.
The briefcase, of course, is the missing part of Pearl (her launcher), and she cannot regain her memories and purpose without getting it back. Dr. Sole has plans of his own–mainly to screw his boss for destroying Dr. Sole’s village, ecosystem, culture, and basic will to live.
Everyone wants the briefcase. Every time Pearl and Dr. Sole tangle, dinosaurs come out of the briefcase and fuck people up. Pearl’s girlfriend breaks up with her for crashing a plane, she meets a hot veterinarian, Dr. Sole kills a bunch more people, and everyone ends up in dinosaur land for a while, and eventually, space.
It’s fucking fantastic, if not a little confusing. BUT ALSO FANTASTIC.
This book is gilled with social commentary:
It is so tiring and ironic, their fear. No matter how many African people the white people robbed of their lives, still they will be afraid of you.
realistic yet sexy running commentary:
Marquita was sleeping, sprawled on her back with her mouth open, a slug trail of saliva tracing gravity’s vector from the corner of her mouth. Her brightly-beaded braids were splayed around her in a semi-circle like the head of a paintbrush that’s been jammed against the paper. Or a halo. The hotel’s Egyptian cotton sheets were tangled with her legs, but one foot had managed to escape and its painted toes twitched in her dreaming. She wore a shell necklace that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a mermaid and, even though the fine wrinkles on her neck and around her eyes showed the drag of years, she had fucked like a storm all night.
Number 47: because you never know when your obliging vet friend will ask you to hold an unconscious pterosaur’s leg out of the way while she roots around with her forceps, looking for the place where the bullet chatters agains the bone.
The chapter headers in particular are gold (see example: Fucks like a gerbil) and there is no small amount of third wall breaking:
This is for everyone who thinks ships are made of metal and petrochemicals and that they travel through space like sailboats travelled the high seas, propelled by mysterious engines that grant them impossible speed. That space sailors have space battles with space pirates and electrical cables and explosions and space bars with space booze.
And, like all moderately confusing books, it offers fantastic summary paragraphs every so often to catch the reader up:
‘Indeed,’ you say. ‘I shall tell her that until further notice I will be living in an airplane hangar and fraternizing with the Loch Ness monster while you engage in a little dubious financial hacking to try to recover some of the funds that were lost when Bethany Collins ruined the future of humanity because her boyfriend doesn’t satisfy her sexually. My wife will then file for divorce and report my location to the police.’
OCCUPY ME is wild and weird and perfect for 2021 (though it was written back in 2016, the vibe still works). Even if you never grasp the plot, the writing is sharp, witty, and engaging. It’s original sci fi, surreal at times, honest all the time, and breathtakingly innocent.
You can escape the pterosaur by jumping into the magic inter dimensional briefcase by buying the book here.