cover image The Unraveling

The Unraveling

Benjamin Rosenbaum. Erewhon, $25.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-64566-001-9

With this ambitious first novel, Rosenbaum (The Ant King and Other Stories) immerses readers in a complex and utterly alien far-future sci-fi world populated by multibodied, cybernetically enhanced humans. Young protagonists Fift, who uses the pronouns ze/zir, and Shria, who uses the pronouns ve/vir, feel constrained by their society’s rigid gender system, enforced through a social capital–based economy and a system of global surveillance. When the pair are involved in a riot sparked by a mysterious circus performance, Fift must choose: disavow zir friend, leaving Shria to face public censure alone, or speak up and risk destroying zir own family. As the consequences of this choice spiral outward, the pair become unwilling figureheads for a revolution. Embedded in a narrative frame about civilizational expansion and collapse, Rosenbaum’s story offers a complex meditation on fame, taboo, gender, and social control. Dense, inventive worldbuilding coupled with the use of neopronouns will present some readers with a steep learning curve, but it’s tempered by the competent plotting and deeply human emotional core. Readers of secondary-world science fiction and science fantasy will find this to be as mind-bending as it is satisfying. Agent: John Silbersack, the Bent Agency. (June)