Who doesn’t love an old west aesthetic? But what if that rough, desert setting is actually in the future? A future where conservative men’s already tight hold on the world is firmer and the only source of information is from the traveling librarians? Add a ragtag crew of interesting women and a non-binary character to the mix and you have the ingredients for a really interesting, and topical, story.
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey tells Esther’s story. Esther stows away in the Librarians’ wagon, running away from home after her best friend and lover is executed for the possession of resistance propaganda. The world she finds outside her small town is bigger and scarier than she anticipated, and the Librarians aren’t exactly what they seem. Through trial and error she finds her fit in this queer little group. And she finds love, you can’t forget that.
Each character is unique and vibrant, but at only 176 pages, Upright Women Wanted doesn’t have the space to dive deeply into any character. I found the same to be true about the plot. The plot is interesting, but straightforward. This isn’t to say that a straightforward plot is bad, but in a longer book it could have been more complicated. I would have liked to learn more about the setting and the culture of this near future story. I also would have enjoyed seeing more of how the oppressive society that was built up here affects the characters and their identities. A lot of this novella felt very surface level because of its length.
Regardless, for a short, fun read Upright Women Wanted ticked all of my boxes. Unique and interesting characters with compelling relationships, differences in morality, a clear and engaging plot, and an intriguing and topical setting.