Deities and Court Intrigue: My Goddess in the Machine Review

I'll admit to being the biggest sci-fi nerd you ever did see, and I think it's a shame that YA sci-fi doesn't seem to get as much attention as other genres (I even made a skit about it because I was Just That Salty). So imagine my delight when I saw an awesome-sounding YA sci-fi book being touted as one of 2020's biggest releases! And then imagine my delight further when I read it and discovered that it's an awesome genre-bending, action-packed bombshell!

*Pauses for a moment to squee incoherently*

Ahem ... let's discover why, shall we?

Book Title: Goddess in the Machine
Author: Lora Beth Johnson
Publisher/Year: Razorbill, 2020
Genre: Science Fiction
Number of Pages (According to Goodreads): 400
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Book description (from Goodreads):
When Andra wakes up, she’s drowning.
Not only that, but she’s in a hot, dirty cave, it’s the year 3102, and everyone keeps calling her Goddess. When Andra went into a cryonic sleep for a trip across the galaxy, she expected to wake up in a hundred years, not a thousand. Worst of all, the rest of the colonists–including her family and friends–are dead. They died centuries ago, and for some reason, their descendants think Andra’s a deity. She knows she’s nothing special, but she’ll play along if it means she can figure out why she was left in stasis and how to get back to Earth.
Zhade, the exiled bastard prince of Eerensed, has other plans. Four years ago, the sleeping Goddess’s glass coffin disappeared from the palace, and Zhade devoted himself to finding it. Now he’s hoping the Goddess will be the key to taking his rightful place on the throne–if he can get her to play her part, that is. Because if his people realize she doesn’t actually have the power to save their dying planet, they’ll kill her.
With a vicious monarch on the throne and a city tearing apart at the seams, Zhade and Andra might never be able to unlock the mystery of her fate, let alone find a way to unseat the king, especially since Zhade hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Andra. And a thousand years from home, is there any way of knowing that Earth is better than the planet she’s woken to?

First impression: HOLY WOW. This book has everything I crave in a YA sci-fi, from a dash of mystery to a rollercoaster of plot twists to heapings of cool technology. However, it has a couple of original twists that make it really special.

Wait, The Author Created a Whole New Language?

Okay, a whole new language is stretching it a little, but the citizens of the future world that Andra wakes up in talk in an evolved dialect of English. For example, they say "reck" instead of "know," "charred" instead of "beautiful," and put "ish" on the ends of words in place of "ly" (e.g. "exceptionalish" instead of "exceptionally").

So how does that impact the reading experience? Admittedly, it took me a few chapters to get into, especially since one of the viewpoint characters (Zhade) has all of his narration in this dialect. In the end, though, I found it pretty easy to get a handle on. It makes total sense that human language would evolve after thousands of years, so I found this to be a realistic and immersive piece of worldbuilding.

You Like Fantasy? You're in Luck!

Remember earlier when I said this book is kind of genre-bending? Well, basically, the citizens of this world have come to see technology as magic. That means that Goddess in the Machine has a distinctly YA-fantasy-court-intrigue spin on what could have been a straight-up sci-fi tale.

The fantasy elements are especially obvious in Zhade's viewpoint chapters -- since he's grown up in this future world, he refers to technology as "magic," and programmers as "sorcers," and so on. Furthermore, the political strife and the struggle for the throne fit in really well with the fantasy vibe. To me, this fantasy-inspired twist sets Goddess in the Machine apart from many other YA sci-fi stories that fall into a similar vein.

Meet Your New Book Boyfriend

Let's take a moment to talk about the characters -- to me, characters can make or break a story. It took me a while to get a handle on who Andra was as a person, but as the story progressed, her character arc became clear and resonated a lot with me.

Zhade was kind of annoying at first, but he totally grew on me and ended up becoming my favorite character. I loved his morally gray motives mixed with his hilarious banter -- serious Captain Carswell Thorne vibes! He's the kind of endearing and flirtatious character that makes for classic book BF material <3

So What About That Ending?

The story's ending was pretty darn satisfying for me, considering it's the first in a duology. It was clearly a setup for the sequel, of course, but enough of my questions were answered that the story felt complete for now. That said, I'll be first in line to grab the next book when it comes out!

Final Verdict

The weird dialect might be difficult to get past for some, but overall I think this book will appeal to sci-fi and fantasy fans alike. It gave me serious Across the Universe vibes (another book I loved BTW), so if you're a fan of that kind of high-stakes sci-fi with political strife and tons of plot twists, definitely give this one a try.

Thanks to Penguin Teen for the ARC of this book! Goddess in the Machine is now available in stores everywhere, so if this sounds like something you'd like, go ahead and swipe your copy now :D

Barnes and Noble | | Amazon | Goodreads

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