Up Against It
by M.J. Locke
I don't read a lot of hard sci-fi, although I can't pinpoint why it doesn't appeal to me as much as other subgenres. Sometimes it feels like reading a technical manual, and sometimes characters are heroically cardboard - but similar complaints could be lobbed against any other kind of writing. Up Against It won plaudits when it came out, including for having a strong female protagonist, so I gave it a shot.
Up Against It flirts with being a YA novel. The story head-hops between several characters, most notably Jane, our protagonist, and Geoff, who is also a protagonist. He's in his late teens and a recent high school grad, and much of the plot involves him and his three buddies riding space bikes. Geoff's age plus the PG-13 rating of the plot (there's nothing graphic sexually, for example) means it could well fit into the YA slot, although the book was not marketed as such.
Like most hard sci-fi, the focus isn't on social systems, and differences between today's society and the future's are dropped as one-liners in passing. Life on the far asteroids is more egalitarian than our world (or the Earth of the book's future), although none of the social innovations in the book are particularly novel. Plot-wise, it's typical hard stuff - the world is in danger and must be saved.
Overall, Up Against It is a satisfying read. Not every book needs to turn your head upside-down and inside-out. And it is nice to see a woman writing in a mode that is dominated by men.