The 5th Gender, by G. L. Carriger (the pen name Gail Carriger writes under when she does spicy stuff), is a wonderful romance-cozy-mystery-scifi story. The lavender Galoi alien Tristol Zyga and the human security officer Detective Drey Hastion are just starting their courtship when a Galoi spaceship contacts the space station with an odd request—the Galoi, who have no word for murder, have a non-accidental death on board and need of a detective. It’s up to Detective Hastion and Tris—who, as an exile, no longer exists to his people—to find out what happened.
Also, for those of delicate sensibilities, there’s a lot of sex in this book, fully described, male on male.
We get alternating points of view from Tris and Drey, and each’s observations on the other and and how they interact with the people and space station around them forms the basis of some excellent worldbuilding. I love Tris’s take on human customs and idioms. And Drey is always willing to answer Tris’s questions and explain things, as well as ask questions of his own. Between the two of them, we learn a lot about Galoi and humans both. In particular, the Galoi’s five genders and anatomy were interesting to learn about.
2—A Cute Romance
Tris and Drey are so fucking cute together. They start the book both having a crush on each other, but thinking the other is out of reach. Tris thinks the grumpy Detective doesn’t like him—but Drey’s gruffness is an attempt to hide his attraction to Tris. Drey is monogamous by nature, and Galoi exiles are known to all take multiple partners—but Tris secretly wants only one partner, something considered weird in his society. But thanks to Tris catsitting for some friends, and said cat escaping from their living quarters when an alarm goes off, Drey rescues the cat and he and Tris start talking. It’s all adorable. Especially Drey learning to interpret Tris’s motile hair.
I have to say, I guess who the killer was fairly early, but that didn’t detract from the story at all. I understand why no one in the story guessed for a while—I did jump to a big conclusion—so no one came off as stupid. I always hate when a mystery relies on that. The mystery resolves because both Drey needs Tris to explain the alien Galoi culture and biology to him, and Tris and the Galoi need Detective Hastion’s concepts—like murder—explained to them.
I loved The 5th Gender. I related to Tris, and ultimately to the murder victim. I sincerely hope Ms. Carriger writes more in this series.