Welcome, one and all, to another MDM Projects book review. Today, I’m looking at Trans Liberty Riot Brigade by L.M. Pierce. By way of disclosure, I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review. I should also point out that the book is currently available from NineStar Press, who also published my novel Addict.
Background: Washington based L.M. Pierce is a speculative fiction author and self-confessed nerd, living happily with her husband and four fur-babies. Trans Liberty Riot Brigade was released on July 17 2017, and is the first book in the Brigade series.
The story is set in a world where people born intersex are labelled as ‘transgressors’ and are legally mandated to be assigned a gender. One such transgressor, Andi, is part of the titular Brigade, an underground group standing against the Government and their stance on intersex individuals. When the Brigade’s headquarters are targeted, things start going to Hell. Can Andi, a self-confessed junkie, and the Brigade’s leader Elenbar infiltrate the Wall along the border of her country and get a call out for help?
The Good: OK, so I want to mention the tone of the book here. With the United Free States, Lindsay has created a dystopian society that is more than a little chilling. Even without the barbaric treatment of intersex citizens, there are plenty of other things going on that would be viewed as travesties by most people, and each and every single one of them has roots in the current world struggles faced by many. Honestly, while the socio-political landscape of the book is extreme, it’s one that’s so deeply linked to our own that you can’t help but wonder if we’re heading in a similar direction at times. It’s difficult to achieve that feeling, so this deserves some applause.
The harshness of the world also means that our protagonists are, by both nature and necessity, never going to be comic book superheroes. Indeed, if we want to make a pop culture comparison, the Brigade are less ‘The Avengers’ and more ‘Tank Girl’ and her crew, both in terms of activism and general behaviour. Andi in particular gives off that vibe, though with more of a self-depreciating edge. That’s important though. Andi knows that she’s a drug addict, she knows that she’s a screw-up, and she knows that she makes bad decisions. At the same time, her situation dictates that she never had a fair shot at leading what society would deem to be a ‘normal life’. Yes, her nature makes her an incredibly frustrating character to read at times, but you’re always going to be so aware that this is the best person that she has been allowed to be, that it’s hard not to get behind her. As the book went on, even when she was stumbling regularly, I still found myself wanting to see Andi succeed in dragging herself out of the gutter.
That’s not to say that Andi is the only character worth noting though. While we don’t get near as much time with some other members of the supporting cast, Elenbar is a great addition to the narrative. While the way she acts towards others is at times more than a little aggressive, when you apply the same reasoning to her as you do to Andi, it soon becomes apparent how much she is a product of society’s unacknowledged (at least by those not on the receiving end of it) dysfunction. Her presence is a driving force for Andi too though, and Elenbar is both a pillar for her to lean on, and a dose of reality ready smack her across the face when needed.
Finally, the book is full of slang which, though it takes a few chapters to get used to, adds to the overall feel of the story. It becomes easy enough to pick up on most meanings after a while, and having its own enclosed language really adds to the authenticity of the world.
The Bad: Beginning with the customary content warnings, there is plenty that should be noted. Andi and her fellow Brigade members swear a lot. If that’s something that puts you off, you’re going to struggle here. The same can be said for some the things that Andi and co get up to or are put through. Violence, drug use, attempted sexual assault, mental abuse, and prostitution all form a part of daily life, and the book is a tough read because of this. The same can be said of Andi’s habit of acknowledging her flaws and poor decisions, but continuing to do them anyway. Everything is dealt with in a satisfactory manner, so it will all come down to your own tolerance levels as to whether this is going to put you off.
Outside of this, I do think that it’s a little hard to figure out what the brigade are actually planning. By the end of the book, I wasn’t certain whether I’d missed the overall plan (other than ‘call for help’), or if they simply weren’t certain what to do themselves. It’s not a major flaw at all, and it doesn’t really disconnect you from the story, especially knowing that a second book will be coming, but it did cause me to scratch my head a little.
Final View: Clocking in at a sturdy 80,800 words, Trans Liberty Riot Brigade has plenty of room to breathe, and uses this space well. If you’re up for a dystopian world that’s a little too close to reality to be comfortable, and a lead forced to desperately kick back at the world that created her, you can’t go far wrong. Harsh, but worthwhile.
Final Score: 4.5 / 5