Daughters of Forgotten Light by Sean Grigsby

Daughters of Forgotten Light_Sean Grigsby.jpg

Publisher: Angry Robot| Release Date: Sept. 4, 2018 | Pages: 352

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sean Grigsby is a new author on the sci-fi scene, but he's made one hell of a splash over the course of 2018 with a pair of fun, highly readable, wildly different stories issued by Angry Robot Books. He debuted with Smoke Eaters in the spring, a cool bit of urban fantasy science fiction about firefighters versus dragons, and I dug it a lot. By the time Fall 18 rolled around, Grigsby was back on the scene with Daughters of Forgotten Light. And you know, for as much as I enjoyed Smoke Eaters, I liked Daughters of Forgotten Light a hell of a lot more. This book isn't just straight up my alley, it's damn near pulled right from my cerebral cortex.

Here's some reasons I dug this book: Women biker gangs. A prison planet. Cannibals. Political injustice. Issues of bodily autonomy. Diversity and representation.

Hell, just in terms of diversity alone, this book is an A+. The cast is overwhelmingly female, from top to bottom. The president and vice president are both women. The prison warden is a woman. The prisoners are all women. They're straight, gay, transgender, asexual, black, white, Asian, Arabic, etc. They come together in various ways, fight against one another in realistic ways, and rebel together. Each have their differences, and are all very, very human because of it.

The prison world of Daughters of Forgotten Light is very much a women's world, and I dug the sly ways Grigsby changed crass male-default slang to accommodate this Girls Only territory. These ladies don't dick around - literally! At one point, the Daughters' leader, Lena, demands her crew to hurry, telling them "We don't have time for you to vadge around." Instead of "Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen," we get "Clean your gash and get ready to dash." I appreciated the attention Grigsby paid to reinforcing the message of this female society, upending even the gender norms we take for granted in our day to day vulgarities.

Daughters of Forgotten Light is science fiction filtered through a strict grindhouse aesthetic. This is very much a 70s exploitation film set to prose, combining some of that particular stylings more recognizable sub-genres, as outlined above but most notably the Women In Prison genre, which we get on two fronts.

Rampant poverty and perpetual war has prompted the United North American Continent to pass legislation allowing parents to sell their children. Boys are sold to the industrial military complex, while women are shipped off-world to the prison planet Oubliette. Of course, nobody knows how bad life is on Oubliette - the world is controlled by biker gangs, the various rivals constantly at each others throats, sometimes literally thanks to the Amazons, a roving band of cannibals. It's unfettered anarchy and violence, totally absent of law and order aside from the occasional truces established by the gangs. On Earth, Senator Dolfuse begins investigating what happens to the shippers, dragging her into an underworld where women and girls are imprisoned and stockpiled.

Although Oubliette is a glassine city, there's an inescapable griminess throughout the whole of Daughters of Forgotten Light. Between the take-no-prisoners internecine warfare of the gangs on Oubliette and the intonations of inescapable poverty and bred-for-profit children on Earth, and the ways those forces have altered societal norms and expectations, Grigsby has crafted a wonderfully engaging and dirty little book here.

This is very much a novel of the Haves versus the Have Nots, with more than a bit of inspired rage against those forces of control and political policies that view human beings as products rather than people. Considering what the Daughters of Forgotten Light are up against it's hard not to root for them and want to see them succeed. They may be a morally compromised band of violent bikers who'd cut your throat for an extra slice of bread, but they ain't got nothing on the world that created them.