Stina Leicht's Persephone Station brings together a crew of lovable misfits to wage war against a hostile corporate entity. Leicht takes influence from cyberpunk novels and Star Trek, pulling together an action-packed plot focused on normal people (well, as normal as you can be in this world) doing their best to defend the innocent and protect the weak.
Persephone Station gathers narrative speed with all the grace of a snowball rolling downhill in an old cartoon, sliding and bounding from the moment our heroes find themselves in over their heads, which happens almost immediately. Rosie, a nonbinary crime lord with a heart of gold, employs Angel and her retired, revivified (think basically cyberpunk zombie soldiers, and yes, they are as cool as that sounds) merc crew to protect the titular planet’s pacifist alien race. Leicht’s universe has a “Prime Directive”-style edict—specifically, humans can’t colonize worlds where sentient species are already present. But since Persephone Station’s native population, the Emissaries, do not wish to be discovered, Rosie and Angel must work together to protect them as best they can, eventually teaming up with the mysterious Kennedy Liu to safeguard the Emissaries from being exploited by the Serrao-Orlov Corporation.
Leicht has crafted a fully imagined world that functions like a living, breathing member of the story. Various aspects of the world beyond Persephone bleed into the story, but never in a way that feels cheap or unearned. Angel’s cybernetic augments feel at home next to pulse lasers, spaceships and an internet that spans a galaxy. Leicht only flirts with the darker tones of a typical cyberpunk setting, focusing much more emphatically on the camaraderie between characters and their ever-present pursuit of truth and hope. There are no dark twists in the 500 or so pages of Persephone Station; instead, Leicht spends her time investing the reader in her characters’ plight.
Rosie, Angel and Kennedy’s interactions are rife with earnestness and charm. Each character loves and cares for their friends and their dialogue feels natural and genuine. Their wins are reader wins, and their losses resonate harshly with the reader. The highly likeable characters help balance Persephone Station’s erratic pacing. Since the plot takes place over the course of a week or so, even several hours of skipped time can be jarring. There were several moments where I needed to flip back a few pages simply to make sure I had not missed a key story beat.
Despite these moments, Leicht draws her story to a beautiful and bittersweet ending. After crafting such heartfelt attachment to its characters, Persephone Station gifts the reader with a positive, entertaining story of grit and determination in which the will to do good prevails despite great cost.