Title: Drunk on All Your Strange New Words
Author: Eddie Robson
Publication date: June 28, 2022
Print length: 228 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Lydia works as translator for the Logi cultural attaché to Earth. They work well together, even if the act of translating his thoughts into English makes her somewhat wobbly on her feet. She’s not the agency’s best translator, but what else is she going to do? She has no qualifications, and no discernible talent in any other field.
So when tragedy strikes, and Lydia finds herself at the center of an intergalactic incident, her future employment prospects look dire–that is, if she can keep herself out of jail!
But Lydia soon discovers that help can appear from the most unexpected source…
Eddie Robson’s previous novel, Hearts of Oak, was a 5-star read for me, so it’s not too surprising that this new book also gets ALL the stars!
In Drunk on All Your Strange New Words, the action takes place in a version of New York at some point in the future, where rising sea levels have devastated most coastal areas, New York exists as a tourist mecca behind sea barriers, and an alien race known as the Logi have established embassies and commerce with the population of Earth.
Main character Lydia works as a translator. The Logi speak mind to mind, and only those with an aptitude for telepathic communication can work in the field. Lydia is highly trained and very good at what she does, and she enjoys her time with “Fitz”, the human name the Logi cultural ambassador goes by. The only downside is that the work of mind-to-mind communication has a chemical side effect equivalent to intoxication, so the longer work hours or more complicated exchanges Lydia carries out, the drunker she becomes.
Can we just pause here to admire what an amazing set-up for the story this is? I’ve never come across anything like it, and I was immediately fascinated by the entire premise.
That’s just the beginning, though. The morning after a particularly challenging night of translation work, Lydia finds Fitz murdered in his study inside the Logi cultural residence. The doors were all locked for the night, only Lydia and Fitz were inside, and Lydia was so drunk from translating that she doesn’t remember anything at all past the middle of the evening. She’s clearly the prime suspect, and to make matters worse, she can’t even say with certainty that she didn’t do it.
The investigation into the murder is incredibly engrossing, with Lydia, the police, and other Logi diplomats carrying out their own inquiries. Lydia checks out clues and seemingly random connections, all of which seem to point to a larger conspiracy… or does it? It’s complicated, to say the least.
Drunk includes deft, intricate plotting, great character profiles, clever dialogue, and a fabulous new version of our world to think about. Grim and dark in many ways, it also includes a renewed interest in hard-copy books, so that’s something to look forward to if this future comes to pass! The author includes technology and slang that are different from our own, but not so impenetrable that it’s hard to follow. The writing is very accessible, and there’s an underlying sense of lightness and humor, even in dark moments, that make this a very enjoyable read.
Bottom line? I loved this book, and couldn’t put it down. Don’t miss it!