Book Review: Goldilocks

Goldilocks by Laura Lam


Women had been ushered out of the workplace, so subtly that few noticed until it was too late.

In the near future, climate change has wrecked such havoc on Earth that humanity will probably cease to exist within the next thirty years. But there is potential salvation—in a goldilocks planet called Cavendish, which is close enough to reach within a lifetime thanks to a warp ring. And the first humans to go to Cavendish will be five women—after they steal their spaceship back.

3.5 stars, rounded up

I feel like this could have been so much more.

It has so many timely issues—women’s rights, climate change, the future of Earth and the fate of humanity, billionaires and governments, and yet I felt so disconnected.

Much of that reason is because the main character, Naomi Lovelace, is telling this story thirty years into the future, and because she’s telling it out of time. But I didn’t mind the out of time portion so much as her general disconnected relationship with her own past. I never really engaged with Naomi the way I did with, say Valerie, who was honestly so much more real than Naomi was.

And Naomi turned a riveting space-theft into something…kinda boring? Although her passion for anything crept out when she was talking about plants, and so therefore I was pretty fucking excited too, because I was just as hungry to learn more about Cavendish and its suitability for Naomi as she was. And I understood her hunger to be on the team, even if I didn’t really get her motivation—mostly because she didn’t understand her own motivation. As her own self? Professional pride? Desire in exploring? Refusal to be Valerie’s pawn while being Valerie’s pawn?

Plus, Naomi’s small acts—and then larger acts—of rebellion were so out of character, mainly because she’d pretty much followed Valerie’s rules more or less to a T for her entire life, and even when she did rebel she always returned to her guardian. Their relationship was fraught and complicated and I felt like I need more of it instead of the half-baked disassociated thing that I got.

The women’s rights portion of the story also was ripe for being absolutely amazing, and yet it felt…weirdly TERFy? Even though Lam is not a TERF, the way the all-women crew thing and women’s rights were handled felt very womb-centric. While I’m not saying that Lam was required to include a trans woman in the story (she was not), the only mention of trans people at all was for trans men, and that only in relation to their possession of a womb. Which was…an interesting step, particularly for a book focused on women’s rights.

The constant returning to the womb, to childbirth, as a woman’s place just was weird and weirdly off-putting. It made sense that the conservatives focused so much on cis women’s abilities to pop out babies, what with given their obsession with women’s reproductive systems anyway, but the entire plot hinges in contraception, fertility and childbirth (without context, this is a mild spoiler). So the fact that both the bad guys and the good guys were each focused on wombs and children (in three different but equally icky ways) was…weird.

So with my general disconnect from the plot and the relatively flat characters (all of the characters felt fairly single-faceted, save possibly Valerie) and my disconcertion with the women’s rights aspect, why the 3.5 stars?

Because of the science.

And because of the thought of going to another planet. I’m a sucker for dubious missions to other worlds, even if they tend to result in no one actually reaching the other worlds (or do they). And because I actually really liked the plant and exoplanet discussions, which were super cool and well researched, and I liked all of the research and thought that went into having a group of people go into space for a long-term mission to the stars and through a wrap-ring-thingy and to another planet over ten light years away.

I felt the comparisons to A Handmaid’s Tale were rather apt, what with both books’ obsessions with women’s fertility and the repression of women, but that the comparison to The Martian was off, because aside from the science aspects and the long-term survival in space/a planet, the humor that saturated every page of The Martian was just not present in this one.

Anywho, go into this one for the science. And I guess go in if you like wombs a lot.

Because in this reality, space is pretty womby.

…I’ll see myself out.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

Goldilocks released May 5, 2020 from Headline Publishing Group

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