Title: Trans Liberty Riot Brigade
Author: L.M. Pierce
Publisher: NineStar Press
Length: 215 Pages
Category: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Dystopian
At a Glance: This dark dystopian fiction will punch you in the face and have you begging for more. 5 Stars and a Page Turner!
Reviewed By: Ben
Blurb: Andi knows being born an intersex “Transgressor” and then choosing to stay that way can have lethal consequences. After all, surgical assignment is mandated by law. But she ain’t going to spend her life hiding from the Society, hooked on Flow, and wanking tourists just to make a few bucks. She’s a member of the Trans Liberty Riot Brigade, an underground faction of Transgressors resisting the government’s war on their illegal genitalia.
But it’s not enough to tag their messages on shithouse walls and sniff down the next high. The government has found their headquarters, decimated their ranks, and they’re crushing the resistance. Though Andi might be nothing but a junktard, she embarks on a desperate dash to stay alive and send a call for help before they’re all killed—or worse, surgically assigned.
Andi, together with Brigade leader Elenbar, must get beyond the communications block preventing all radio transmission, which means crossing the seaboard Wall barricading the United Free States borders. It’s designed to keep enemies out and the citizens in, but amid increasing earthquakes and deadly pursuit, Andi will discover there’s a far more dangerous secret hidden deep within the Wall itself.
Review: First off, let me say that NineStar Press is becoming my go-to for LGBTQ+ science fiction. Most of my favorite science fiction stories of the year have been published by this press, and Trans Liberty Riot Brigade is another favorite. Their page is definitely worth a looksie if you haven’t already.
Trans Liberty Riot Brigade is as edgy as the title suggests. Taking place in a dystopian future, where intersex people are being persecuted by the government, and the United Free States is at war with the rest of the world, it’s not surprising our protagonist, Andi, grows up in rough times. She’s equally rough because of it.
The voice of Andi and the people of the time—the late 21st century—hits you within the first few sentences. The slang is tough to decipher, with an almost A Clockwork Orange feel. To highlight the setting, within the first chapter Andi’s almost raped, is repeatedly assaulted and battered, and overdoses on one of the local street drugs, Flow. And it gets worse. Between the lingo and the oppressive setting, it took me a while to pick through this story, but man was it powerful and definitely worth it.
The main theme of the novel centers around oppression by society and the ways it hurts everyone in every class, not just those in the lower classes, and, therefore, is self-destructing. Through Andi, we’re certainly exposed to how the government fucks over the lower class—holy crap. Because she’s intersex, her life is pretty much forfeit from the get-go. Her body is literally illegal for her to have. She talks about prostitution, being raised by nuns, drugs, rape, and physical and mental abuse—all because she is who she is. A little over halfway through the novel, we also get a glimpse of how the government oppresses the middle class and those it pretends to support. It eats its own tail. A lose-lose for everyone, the examples bring Pierce’s message home nicely.
Although I struggled with the creative diction, it was also probably my favorite part of the entire book. The words were believable and added to a feel that I was in a time and place that was not my own, despite the country being called the United Free States. I definitely had a Wizard of Oz moment.
The characters were also fantastic, and remarkably consistent. They…consistently beat the crap out of each other, lol. But seriously, even though they were kinda shitty people sometimes, they stuck to their guns and I respected that. If I haven’t already made this clear (along with the warning in the blurb itself) this is a pretty violent book, and the characters aren’t Captain America, Ironman, or even Batman. Andi is a part of this revolutionary Trans Riot Brigade, but it becomes pretty clear that she doesn’t really perform her brand of social activism out of a sense of responsibility to society or goodness to her heart. What is perhaps surprising is that she does have a very strong sense of loyalty and family, even if she demonstrates it poorly at times.
My one criticism of the story was that it seemed to meander off course a bit, but I must confess while I was a bit murky on where it was headed during those parts, I was still thoroughly entertained. Andi goes through significant personal evolution, so the lack of a romantic storyline or some of those other types of side plots was barely noticed by me. If this is going to be series, however, I’d like to see her form more emotional connections.
Read this if you like gritty science fiction and dystopian lit, and you’re not afraid of violence and an inventive curse word or two—ha! More like five hundred.
You can buy Trans Liberty Riot Brigade here: