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Review: Black Sunrise – Cristina Engela

Black Sunrise - Cristina Engela

Genre: Sci-Fi, Transgressive

Reviewer: Lucy

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About The Book

Action! Adventure! Gender Dysphoria!

Cindy-Mei Winter had until recently been ‘Agent’ Winter, C.I.A. – that’s Colonial Intelligence Agency – and one of their best agents… that is, until they threw her out for coming to work in a dress.

After that disappointing and sudden end to what had been a promising career, Mei rewarded herself with a long relaxing vacation in the outback to celebrate her gender reassignment and her new start in life. The first stop on her journey turned out to be a little backwater planet called Deanna…

As a third-rate colony in the Terran Empire, Deanna had more than its fair share of dull moments… Dull – but also definitely weird… Deanna orbited a star called Ramalama – and if you think that’s funny, Deannas’ two moons were called Ding and Dong, respectively. (This was a local joke.)

Then the unexpected happened: A single Ruminarii Hammerhead – the first seen by Humans in over eighty years, arrived to invade the small backwater Terran colony! Mei had hoped to put her violent and somehow depressing past behind her, but now it seemed her new beginning (and her holiday) were going to have to wait! The Gimp were back, and this was no time to be a sissy! She faced seemingly insurmountable odds in the midst of panic, hysteria – falling sherry – and people hiding under furniture! What would she do?

Thankfully, with the assistance of an alien walking, talking plant called Fred, a local bounty hunter called Beck the Badfeller – and the Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club, she wouldn’t have to find out alone!

The Review

When you have no idea what to expect, you sometimes end up pleasantly surprised. Black Sunrise is a weird little gem of a story that has elements of satire and parody—a talking plant named Fred, a planetary setting that’s something akin to an old Western, reptilian alien invaders taken out by a vat of sherry—as well as other fantasy and sci-fi aspects.

But there’s also a dry wit and humor wrapped around a serious, heartfelt subject here. Cindy-Mei Winter is a trans woman who was fired from her job for showing up in a dress. She suffered transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, and general stupidity from her coworkers and bosses. After her gender affirmation surgery, she takes a galactic cruise and ends up in the middle of major weirdness. So much for a relaxing vacation!

The cast of characters is divine. There’s the bored-off-his-gourd Captain of the vessel that brings Mei to Deanna. Gary Beck the Badfeller is a PI/bounty hunter who got his tough nickname from a stupid childhood stunt. The Gimps aka Riminarii, reptiles who think being bad is good and typically rise in power and status by killing those above as well as below them in rank and power. And Fred, the Arborian, a talking plant who has spent the last several years hanging out on the rec deck of the freighter that brought Mei to Deanna. 

The multiple-points-of-view style the author chose works very well for this story. There is a large cast of characters, and we get to see their thought processes, and often the inner workings of the characters’ strange, minds. The pacing of the story reminds me of the ending of the Clue movie, where Tim Curry runs from place to place explaining what really happened: rapid bursts from the characters, some ironic, some humorous, and some sad and heart-wrenching. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this raucous little story. It’s weird and irreverent, but has a deeper, more important message dressed up in a slapstick-comedy tale. I will definitely read more by author Christina Engela. 

The Reviewer

I’m an avid reader who loves pretty much all genres except math textbooks. As a kid, my parents exposed me to everything from fairies, hobbits, and dragons to the biographies of interesting people around the world, interspersed with poetry, plays, and music. Into adulthood, I spent a lot of years with my nose buried in various textbooks. Now, I read whatever grabs my fancy.

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