Disobedience by Daniel Sarah Karasik

 Shael lives in a vast prison camp, a monstrosity developed after centuries of warfare and environmental catastrophe. As a young transfeminine person, they risk abject violence if their identity and love affair with Coe, an insurrectionary activist, are discovered. But desire and rebellion flare, and soon Shael escapes to Riverwish, a settlement attempting to forge a new way of living that counters the camp’ s repression. As the complexities of this place unfold before Shael, Disobedience How can a community redress harm without reproducing unaccountable forms of violence? How do we heal? What might a compassionate, sustainable model of justice look like? This is a remarkable work of queer and trans speculative fiction that imagines how alternative forms of connection and power can refuse the violent institutions that engulf us.

YEAR: 2024
LENGTH: 216 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Dystopian, Speculative Fiction

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s), Bi/Pan Secondary Character(s), Genderqueer/Nonbinary Main Character(s), Trans Main Character(s), Closeted Main Character(s).

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

DISOBEDIENCE feels like an extended worldbuilding exercise, especially in the first half of the book. The pace of events is pretty slow, and most things involve a lot of explanation or Shael thinking through how they feel about some dynamic in play. Feeling like a fable, the first half seemed too densely detailed to actually be a story, through this did change towards the end as the consequences of some things set up earlier began to play out. There are strong themes of justice, consequence, and the nature of punishment, as well as explorations of gender dynamics in who is expected to serve the needs of the society, and how NIMBY attitudes play out in a small community. The camp where Shael was born is a prison, with strict gender roles and frequent punishments. The community they escape to has its own strict gender roles, meant to counteract the early programming of those who came from the camp or the mountains, but which in practice seem to encourage thinking along gendered lines. Most of the Betweens (loosely encompassing nonbinary, genderqueer, etc.) in the community live together because even here they are othered. They're treated as a third gender in a way that was frustrating to read, but which underscores this point that there is no perfect middle way that fixes everything. 

I like this overall! I'm interested in reading more by this author, especially if future work expands on the world established here.

Graphic/Explicit CW for transphobia, confinement, death.

Moderate CW for sexual content, grief, misgendering, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, lesbophobia, blood, physical abuse, toxic relationship, violence, gun violence, war, suicide, murder.

Minor CW for kidnapping, excrement, vomit, racism, child abuse, sexual assault, rape, suicide, parental death.

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