Nicky Drayden’s Escaping Exodus reminds me a lot of Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion—it’s got a matriarchal society that’s set up a space-based civilization on a fleet of bio-tech worldships, which you have to admit is not a premise that a lot of books are using—but with the critical difference that the characters are not exclusively horrid monstrous antiheroes.
Which isn’t to say that they’re all nicey-nicey. This is fundamentally a book that’s about social inequities—class, gender, and even to some extent racial strife all pop up in the book—and the characters are embedded in their society in the way that people are, with even the “well-meaning” characters unthinkingly echoing stereotypes they’ve absorbed along the way, or defending the indefensible. There’s plenty of conflict.
But however flawed, the characters do largely mean well. We can see that they’re essentially decent people, and cheer for them to win the day or hope that they’ll change the way they’re handling some particular thing or whatever; and that goes a long way toward turning this book into something that’s enjoyable rather than a brutal and unpleasant slog.
I do have some minor complaints about the book. For one, the main protagonist seems way too ignorant of how her world works, even granting that she’s been a kid with a privileged upbringing; her being so clueless works well as a way to bring the reader up to speed on what’s going on, but it makes her seem kinda legit unqualified to be seeking out political power. For another, there’s a part in the middle of the book where growing political conflict divides two characters, and it seems like that was basically just glossed over with a time skip, like “storming the Bastille yada yada Napoleon took over” (not in the particulars, just in the sense that a lot of interesting stuff got skipped), which also makes later interactions with those two characters ring not-quite-true.
But those aren’t book-killers. Overall, this is an enjoyable book set in a mostly original setting with a lot of things to say. It’s a good, solidly written piece of SF. Recommended.