For lack of time and energy, I normally avoid books that have sequels. However,  after finishing LJ Cohen’s Derelict, I had to read Ithaka Rising, Book Two of the Halcyone Space series. 

Sure, Derelict works as a standalone novel, but you only get a brief taste of the future Cohen creates. I can say with confidence that Ithaka Rising delivers.  

One thing that stuck out to me is that Ithaka Rising is very different from Derelict. Halcyone Book One is about survival in a hopeless situation, floating through open space on a broken ship; Book Two deals with the aftermath of that survival. The villains in Derelict are human and take a physical form, while the villains in Ithaka Rising are invisible and internal.

Ithaka Rising continues the inclusive and complex tradition of Derelict. The characters in Halcyone Space, both primary and secondary, are diverse; there are POC, disabled, and queer characters. Commander Mendez of Daedalus station is female, but Mendez’s gender is never put on display; it just is. Jem Durbin has nystagmus from a traumatic brain injury, the leader of Ithaka walks with a limp, Lieutenant Commander Gutierrez has a prosthetic limb, and Ro Maldonado struggles with PTSD from domestic abuse.

Ro is never questioned about her abilities just because she is female. She captains Halcyone, an old ship that she fixed with Barre’s help. The other characters call Ro “Captain” with ease, even though this embarrasses her. On top of this, Ro is a coding master and takes up the position of Chief Engineer on Daedalus to fund Halcyone’s restoration. 

Throughout Ithaka Rising, Cohen balances the perspectives of Barre, Jem, Nomi, and Ro. Barre Durbin is a gifted musician who, as Halcyone’s first mate, has figured out how to communicate with the ship’s damaged AI system, and struggles to be accepted by his physician parents. Jem is a coding prodigy who cannot code anymore due to his medical complications and is the driving force for Ithaka Rising; Jem sneaks off-planet to receive a risky surgery. Barre and Ro put Halcyone back in flight to track Jem down. Konomi Nakamura is part of Daedalus station’s communications team, working closely with Halcyone’s crew. Ultimately, Nomi has to decide where her loyalties lie; to her friends or to the Commonwealth?

Readers: if you enjoyed Derelict, I would highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of Ithaka Rising. The tone and pacing between Halcyone Space One and Two is distinct, but in the best possible way. Ithaka Rising does a good job of taking readers down from Derelict and at the same time, setting the stage for Book Three, Dreadnought and Shuttle.

F-BOM is working on an alternative to the HerStoryArc Scale of Inclusivity, so below, we present to you Feminist Bingo, with Ithaka Rising as the contestant.  Let us know what you think!

Bingo categories in text: 

  • Female protagonist: 1/1 point
  • Genre fiction: 2/2 points
  • Actually entertaining: 2/2 points
  • Woman using tools: 2/2 points
  • Queer woman: 2/2 points
  • Woman being vulnerable: 0/2 points
  • Multiple significant female characters: 1/1 points
  • No love triangle: 1/1 point
  • Multiple queer, trans, or POC women: 3/3 points
  • Woman kicking ass: 0/2 points
  • Woman with a disability: 2/2 points
  • Queer, trans, and POC women survive the story: 3/3 points
  • Not actively offensive: Free
  • Positive family relationships: 0/3 points
  • Woman over 40: 2/2 points
  • Female creator: 2/2 points
  • Strong female friendships: 0/3 points
  • Multiple scenes pass the Bechdel test: 2/2 points
  • Woman’s story does not center around romance: 1/1 point
  • Female romance: 2/2 points
  • Woman of color: 2/2 points
  • Trans or non-binary character: 0/2 points
  • No damsels: 2/2 points
  • Woman being a leader: 2/2 points
  • Passes the Bechdel test: 1/1 point

Score: 35 points x 3 bingo= 105 total points

Ithaka Rising wins Feminist Bingo multiple times over!

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