DiscoverScience Fiction

Honey Hawk


Loved it! 😍

A non-binary soldier and an extraterrestrial protester team up to combat oppression and persecution on a post-climate apocalypse Earth.

In author Hava Zuidema's post-apocalyptic Earth, honey hawks are wasps with a vicious sting, closely associated with a religious group called the Orchidists. An Orchidist baptism involves being stung by one of these creatures willingly--a symbolic commitment to the sacrifice and suffering of the religion's founder. As the plot of Honey Hawk progresses, the wasps become linked to another kind of renunciation: forgoing an easy life in exchange for resistance against atrocities.

Honey Hawk posits a futuristic Earth existing after a climate apocalypse. Some wealthier residents are able to escape, and a group of extraterrestrials called vantarians arrive in their wake and rehabilitate the planet. Of course, when humans return to Earth, they want "their" planet back: wars ensue. The vantarians are corralled into particular zones and suffer horrible abuse at the hands of the human government.

Enter Alder Brites: a non-binary human soldier and university student. Military service is compulsory, though, and it's clear that Alder really wants to be a journalist. And, because Alder generally benefits from how life is structured on Earth, they don't really question their role on the Force. Our other main character is Sefynne Iyed, a vantarian accused of terrorism who's just been released from prison. Sefynne is involved in the fight for vantarian rights, which means he sometimes does work for a group called the Muzama--radicals who are arming vantarians for protection. Alder and Sefynne meet during a raid; in the aftermath, their lives will never be the same again. As Alder and Sefynne learn more about each other, including their similar goal to end oppression, their relationship and their choices will become deeper, more dangerous, and much more complicated.

Hava Zuidema's novel is a sympathetic portrayal of the nuances of progressive politics--taking a strong stance is never simple. It often means losing relationships, giving up work connections, and being rejected by a wider system that views your existence as a threat. As Alder makes the choice to learn and radicalize, their life changes drastically, but it's worth it for protecting Sefynne. And despite the fact that Alder and Sefynne care about each other, their relationship is always fraught due to their different social standings. As Sefynne puts it during a heated exchange: "You think you're a good person because of all these things you don't do, but you're only able to avoid doing so-called bad things because your position in the world allows it. You don't have to ignore all manners of abuse to avoid becoming violent." Zuidema states, in a note before the book's beginning, that the novel only intends to tell Alder and Sefynne's story, despite similarities to reality. In the current fraught political moment, though, it's difficult not to read this dystopian as alarmingly familiar.

Zuidema (who's also non-binary) does an amazing job of depicting their world's political movements as diverse and non-monolithic. Within the vantarian resistance, there are both radical elements focused on arms and also educational groups who work on teaching and art-making. Activism is multifaceted; the real key is something Sefynne says to Alder, when their situation is looking rough: "We can't afford pessimism." Pessimism is often incorrectly framed as a realist or intelligent way of viewing life, but Sefynne and Alder's success is always rooted in optimism in the face of great challenges, as well as emotional labor and genuine care. We can learn a lot from these two characters, about what it takes to honestly change the world.

It's also always exciting to see more enby representation in both stories and authorship, including novels like this one--taking place in a future where non-binary people are free to just exist, without constant societal interrogation and expectations. Luckily for us readers, a sequel to Honey Hawk is in the works.

Reviewed by

Co-Founder of The Haint
Batavia Public Library Tech/Reference Assistant
Literary Agent Assistant at Barbara Braun Associates, Inc.
Personal Assistant to Marilyn Stasio at the NYTBR
Book Review Editor for KGB Bar Lit Mag
Business Manager of Columbia Journal
MFA in Fiction, Columbia U

About the author

Hava Zuidema is a counseling grad student who writes queer sci-fi on the side. Their books are inspired by their travels, fantasies, and existential terror. When they're not writing, they prefer to spend their time painting, rock climbing, and exploring nature. view profile

Published on July 05, 2020

Published by

80000 words

Genre: Science Fiction

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