I have been meaning to read Exo forever. So long in fact that my library’s e-copy expired and I had to buy it. But I’m not even mad about it, because Exo is so nuanced and complex. I’ve been in the mood for a non-humanoid alien SF in my live and Exo delivers. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.
When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip . But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one…
Exo is a book that offers no easy answers. If I had to distill why I immensely enjoyed it into four concepts: non-humanoid aliens, complex colonization, morally grey characters, no quick fixes. I am always on the search for great YA SF books that feature non-humanoid aliens and Exo is now on the top of my list. I can’t even really describe them fully because they’re so unlike what we might be aware of and I love that. It’s a pet peeve of mine for all these aliens we encounter to be humanoid shaped (without a reason), and so that reason alone instantly triggered serotonin.
Colonization & Characters
My next favorite element of Exo is how it examines colonization and, specifically, how difficult and complex it is. While on the surface Exo is about this clash between rebels (who want an all human Earth) and those who work with the Zhree. But what strikes you immediately about the rebels are that there’s no way we can return to a world without alien influence. Not to mention all the casualties on both sides that ensure from this almost idealistic thinking. Yet, at the same time those who work with the Zhree are far from perfect and Lee does not let either of them get away spotless.
What can the future hold for humanity? As Lee only introduces more complexity and forces humans to not only see their relationship (as inferiors to aliens) but also their place in the larger universe, Exo only gains added layers. I cannot get over it truly. At the same time, all of the characters that Lee presents are so delightfully morally grey. They’re messy, complex, full of mistakes, and utterly so relatable. Trying to do the best they can at the time, these characters expose the ways that right and wrong, loyalty and love, is no simple thing in this world.
Exo delivers no easy answers and while this may make readers uncomfortable, know that it’s the most authentic. After over a 100 years of colonization there is no easy exit plan. No right or wrong way when there are sacrifices, betrayals, and compromises made on all sides. The conflicts are full of ground laden with blood and innocent lives. It’s a book that only grows on me the more space I have from it.
(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)