Feminist Killjoy. Badly Behaving Bookliker. Writer and reader of all things speculative.
This is the second science fiction book I've had to DNF in less than a week due to stomach-turning ableism.
I mean, not that that's the only problem. There's some misogyny vaguely disguised as pseudo-feminism, fucktons of gender essentialism, some mind-boggling Libertarian-esque politics that make no sense at all (a society that has survived 250 years with no laws, just contracts? How are those contracts even reinforced?), an anti-polyamory attitude (loving more than one person? how weird!), and a heroine with a supposed--and inexplicable--knack for making trouble and having people hate her wherever she goes (no in text evidence of this is ever really presented) and an even more inexplicable name of Athena Hera Sinistra.
Early on in the book, however, I found myself flinching as the main character thought, basically, why be born with a disability if you don't have to. This is an atrociously ableist attitude, especially since most things that are disabilities are disabling due more than anything else to societies inflexibility. It's basically saying entire groups of people should cease to exist so that "normal" people can continue to always be catered to. I winced and tried to move on.
Then this happens:
The parking attendant made me flinch, because she was obviously mentally deficient. I'd seen mentally deficient people on Earth before, of course, but none with six arms [...]
(The arms, for clarification, are part of a freaking suit that assists her with her work, not part of her body. Athena is just ignorant of this.) Okay, first of all, fuck you. Second of all, FUCK YOU. Mentally deficient? Mentally deficient!? Just how fucking gross can you be? Athena literally flinches because OMG a person with a different brain than hers! Noes! You wouldn't think it could get more disgusting, but it does:
As we walked out of the garage I was silent, filled with horror at what had been done to this poor woman. Given the ability to bioengineer your children in the bio-womb, why have a deficient one at all? And if you chose to have one, why have her so grotesquely...dehumanized?
I reiterate: FUCK YOU. Excuse me? Her having extra arms (which again, she in fact does not) is "grotesquely dehumanized" but calling her mentally deficient and questioning her right to exist isn't? Just...just...
Nothing is more dehumanizing than this attitude. It's horrible. And then it turns out that the reason this woman is "mentally deficient" is because she wasn't bioengineered, which is spoken of much in the same way sensible people would criticize parents who won't vaccinate their children or refuse to get them medical care due to religious reasons. Like it's irresponsible to allow neuroatypical people to exist in the world. Like it's worse to let people be themselves than to completely eradicate entire swathes of neurotypes.
Of course, the suit with all the arms is there to assist the disabled woman in her job, which "allows the poor thing to earn a living." Because let's devalue her further by insisting her life is utterly worthless if she can't make money.
Joy, a society that eradicates disabled people and treats them like shit when they do exist. Fun fun. Did I mention there are no people of color in this society, because all the bioed people who escaped Earth 250 years ago were apparently white?
Excuse me, I have to figure out whether I want to puke or cry.