by Adam Rakunas
Subscription Warfare. Soul mining. Atmospheric licensing. Genetic focus grouping. With the Big Three companies practically ruling the universe, the corporate world has become a little more...forceful. Padma Mehta survived B-school, but after a turbulent few years as an indenture for WalWa, she decided to breach her contract and restart her life with the union. Years later, Padma is acting as a Union recruiter on a backwater planet mostly known for producing cane sugar and whiskey. All she wants to do is finish up her recruiting quota and buy the distillery that makes her favourite rum. But when her latest collection of Breachers turns out more complex than expected, Padma quickly finds herself up to her neck in trouble and sinking fast. As she puts it,
"We were all in new territory, the kind filled with flesh-eating landmines and laser-guided crocodiles."
Needless to say, I loved the worldbuilding of Windswept. While it's better than slaving away as an indenture or being frozen in space as a "fishstick," life in the Union is far from perfect. Padma's recruits are forced to fill unpleasant menial jobs, at least until she can bring in more Breaches to fill their slots--a bit like a pyramid scheme. I often was thoroughly confused by all of the corporate espionage, but business language never failed to entertain me. Padma's B-school classes included subjects such as Hostile Acquisition, Crisis Management (Padma specialized in strategic lying), Business Vocalization (teaches you how to have a forceful, "Obey Me" delivery), Colonial Management, and, of course, Weapons Management.
Initially, I had serious difficulties warming to Padma, and her motives, which are purely selfish for the majority of the book, didn't help much. Padma is only interested in bringing in Breaches so that she can get the bounty for them, which will in turn let her buy a distillery and quit her job. She's blinded by self-interest, neglectful of her duties to her Ward, and, in the beginning, rather cowardly. Fortunately, another character is quickly introduced who balances out the spiky negativity of Padma and provides plenty of opportunity for banter. I also had a certain amount of difficulty following the plot, and at least one of the twists didn't really work for me, but the hijinks throughout definitely made up for it.
Windswept is often laugh-out-loud funny. Some (okay, a lot, but I couldn't choose) of my favourite quotes: (Note: I've removed names from two of them to prevent spoilers)
“It’ s not a crime if you write the laws.”
“Or hire the lobbyists.”
“Ooh, good reminder. We need to get us some of those. Also, more flamethrowers.”
"We are not sitting on garbage,” said Mimi, freezing up as the smell hit her.
“This isn’t garbage,” I said. “It’ s pre-compost.”
“It smells like garbage.”
“But it pays better.”
"You should probably come with me. It’ll be safer.”
“My professors told me never to go anywhere with strange, armed men.”
“Mine were strange, armed men,” he said. “Women, too.”
“We have tear gas, too. Plus some grenades that have all sorts of lovely symbols on them.”
“Looks like they release fire-breathing ferrets, or something like it. Tough to tell with these LiaoCon jobbies."
Seriously, this book is just plain funny. Even so, it manages to present an interesting perspective on politics, consumerism, and unionizations. So if you want to read about Co-Ops, giant crab attacks, sewer chases, and the inadvisability of copying techniques from the movies, Windswept is definitely worth a look.
~~I received an advanced reader copy through Netgalley from the publisher, Angry Robot Books, in exchange for my honest review. Quotes were taken from an advanced reader copy and while they may not reflect the final phrasing, I believe they speak to the spirit of the novel as a whole.~~