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Callisto 2.0


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This creative but slow-moving spec-fic story imagines an engaging future with women's experiences at the center.

Callisto 2.0, by Susan English, is a spec-fic story with women front and center. Physicist Calli gets an amazing research opportunity from the Foundation, a job she's never even applied for, and finds herself working with a team of women scientists.  Each woman is at the forefront of her field, in everything from hydroponics to parthenogenesis to warp drive. Calli feels she's arrived in a science utopia, a community full of friends and led by the beautiful and brilliant Diana.   The author centers women's experiences in imagining a potential future, and presents such an appealing, but still believable, future reality.

There's almost no tension for most of the novel, as Calli discovers the community of warm, intelligent women working and researching together. This was just fine for me -- I loved this glimpse of this world where women just did their well-funded research and made cool space projects and had fun together -- but it's not exactly a page-turner.

Ok, fine, I selected this novel entirely because it promised women in space. I like reading sci-fi, but there are rarely any girls going on the awesome space adventures. Maybe there's one lady member of the all-male crew, but you never see ladies just being friends and colleagues in space. Callisto 2.0 really delivered here, the story is all about women's ambitions, friendships, love, and experiences.

The writing style is direct and factual, which works well for a scientist like Callisto describing her experiences, but slows other parts of the story. A certain whirlwind romance loses impact and power from such direct presentation. Sometimes the characters give long speeches about interesting aspects of life in the future, like balancing traditional culture with science or about genderfluidity. This information adds to the world-building, and I enjoyed the vision of the future presented here, but these speeches slow the action in a book that's already more of a thought exercise than a narrative. 

Throughout the book, themes of Greek myth and beekeeping reappear, enriching the world by adding an artistic break to accounts of Calli's research. The Greek names absolutely delighted me, both in the characters' birth names and in their conscious choices of what to name their creations. (Nothing here is named Zeus.)  The bees are a colony of contented, specialized workers, living and creating in harmony, with slightly ominous references to how bees struggles without gravity or how much a hive needs a queen, which pay off in the final scenes.

Overall, discovering this all-women community in this future world makes an intriguing book, even if there's not much tension until the very end. The final pages are an abrupt change from Calli's daily life in the labs, with a shocking conflict introduced and the foundation of a sequel. That's an almost jarring change of pace, but even the dramatic choice presented matches the worldbuilding and matches the thought experiments introduced so far. 

Reviewed by

I'm an avid reader and book blogger, I'm always looking for new books and new authors. I like historical fiction, literature, scifi, specfic, thrillers (without gore) and general character-driven fiction. I usually cross-post my Reedsy reviews to my book blog.

About the author

A world traveler with an insatiable intellectual curiosity, Susan holds a master’s degree in physics, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia, and lived five years in Hawaii on her off-grid, completely self-sufficient farm in the jungle. Now she is happily ensconced in beautiful Medellin, Colombia. view profile

Published on November 02, 2020

100000 words

Genre: Science Fiction

Reviewed by