Stina Leicht’s Persephone Station takes place on the planet Persephone, home to Serrao-Orlov Corporation and a group of mysterious aliens known as the Emissaries. When Serrao-Orlov decides to hunt down the Emissaries to steal their technology, it’s up to crime boss Rosie and the group of mercenaries lead by former soldier, Angel, to protect the Emissaries. My first impression upon picking up the book was that it was just another space adventure (I’m not a big science fiction person), but I found a unique book that was a lot of fun to read. Here are seven features that, in my opinion (which is based on incredibly limited knowledge) make Persephone Station unique and worth the read. (Warning for slight spoilers ahead)
The Gender of the Main Characters
It seems like there is a trope where characters are a group of friends from the army, and the group is usually all men. In Persephone Station, the trope applies, but the group is made up entirely of women. In fact, every major character in the book, from the villain to all three narrators, is not men. Now, before this statement is corrupted, I want to make it clear that I am in no way saying that, to be feminist or inclusive, books can’t have any sort of male cast, but since there are so many works out there that focus on the lives of male characters, it was nice to see other characters have a turn in the spotlight. Also, one of the protagonists is nonbinary, which seems to hardly ever happen in other books.
The Characters and Race
There does not seem to be too many white people in Persephone Station, which, like with the characters’ genders, feels unusual. For both of these, it really shouldn’t be unusual, but my limited space experience shows that space movies have many white characters. While no one should have to be tokenized, having token white characters (or no white characters) feels like progress since there’s less opportunity for others to tell their stories in mainstream media.
Basically, No One Is Straight
There appears to be a pattern that Persephone Station champions minority groups, from its cast to its plot about protecting people vulnerable to the antics of governments and private companies. Persephone Station really went all out, and it’s great. Rather than just having one character of color and one LGBTQ+ character, there are so many different people with so many different perspectives and stories. Romance is very much not the focus of Persephone Station, but the book still acknowledges the existence of non-straight characters, demonstrating that there doesn’t need to be romance to implement diversity (of this sort).
Characters With Disabilities
Yes, yes, inclusivity, you are probably thinking at this point, and yes, there is so much inclusivity in this book.
A few of the protagonists were soldiers before arriving on Persephone, and all have died in the past and been revived. The revivification process doesn’t come without side effects, however, and all these characters take medication (Angel does specifically to prevent migraines and seizures). While this is again not the focus of the book, it breaks the pattern of able-bodied characters that seem to appear in everything.
A lot of alien movies I’ve seen or heard of (which, frankly, isn’t very many) have aliens coming to Earth for various colonial purposes, whether its harvesting resources or just taking over the world because why not? In Persephone Station, the opposite is true: humans have come to take over planets and harvest resources from them. I’m sure this trope has been subverted countless times, but the parallels to what’s happened on Earth seem especially obvious since the aliens in question spend most of their time looking like humans. The Emissaries, as they are called, are able to change themselves to look like anything, which they use to look like whatever species they’re encountering at the time. It seems like an attempt to adapt and avoid conflict with enemies. Notably, the villain (a human) wants to use this ability for spy work and to gain power rather than use it for protection, probably because they don’t have to worry as much about keeping safe.
Who Needs Space?
Persephone Station is very much a book about space, but most of it, besides a brief section at the end, takes place on a single planet. Star Wars, for example, includes a lot of focus on space with only brief glimpses of planets, whereas Persephone Station takes a close look at a single planet and doesn’t pay too much attention to space. Perhaps this is not a trope since I’ve only seen it in one franchise, but I still think it’s an interesting feature of Persephone Station.
At the beginning of the book, the Emissaries infect the villain with a disease, and I spent the entire book waiting and watching as the disease did…nothing? Since I’m tired of living through the disease-filled present, this is completely fine with me, but it really threw me off. It’s not that books don’t often surprise me, but I don’t find that they employ foreshadowing this aggressively only to not follow through with it. I think if it happened a lot I might find it annoying, but in Persephone Station it adds to the mystery in a way that’s fun, distracting us from the main conflict while it builds up right under our noses.