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Book Review: The All-Consuming World, by Cassandra Khaw

The All-Consuming World
Cassandra Khaw
Hardcover / Ebook
ISBN: 978-1645660200
Erewhon, September 2021, 288 pgs

As an immortal criminal who comes back from the dead in different cyborg bodies, death has touched Maya more times than she’d like. It’s all a part of the lifestyle of a space bandit, though. Crimes. Death. Resurrection. Still reeling over the last unfortunate heist with her crew, the Dirty Dozen, leaving some of the team dead and gone for good, Maya wants to pick at the scab and find answers to what went wrong on planet Dimmuborgir. So, she gets some of the crew together, and it’s just like old times, except there’s way more at stake.

The All-Consuming World by Khaw has an all-consuming voice that kicks off from the start and never seems to let up. Even though the perspectives change from Maya to other important characters throughout the story, each characters’ voice carries the same intensity through the whole debut novel. Together, the characters help weave the intricate mystery at the heart of Dimmuborgir and Maya’s past.

While positioned as your regular old “let’s-assemble-the-old-crew-and-pull-another-heist”—you know Gone in 60 Seconds but in space with sentient planets, dangerous AI, cyborgs, and all manner of future crime activity—The All-Consuming World is less about the criminal and heist aspect and more about the characters and how their search for truth will hopefully set them free from their disastrous pasts and how it all shapes them.

While reading this novel, sometimes I felt like it was going so fast I didn’t care what was happening, I was just glad to be along for the ride of Khaw’s beautiful prose. How each of the characters would express themselves often caught me off guard and made me think about how we, in real life, communicate. Which is always what I want great thought-provoking science fiction to do: make me question the real by playing out themes in the unreal.

Khaw’s fictional world (and its characters) is a wonderfully unreal and imaginative backdrop for this story of cyberpunk rebellion.

Aigner Loren Wilson

Aigner Loren Wilson - A side profile of a Black woman staring out at the sea with the ocean, cliffs, and trees in the background.

Aigner Loren Wilson is a queer Black writer of speculative fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and games. She serves as a senior fiction editor at Strange Horizons and has guest-edited issues of Fireside Fiction and Apparition Literary Magazine. Her work has appeared in FIYAH, Anathema, Arsenika, and other publications. When she’s not writing or editing for others, she’s learning, hiking, or loving on her fur babies—both human and animal. To check out her books, games, bread bakes, and other writings visit her website (aignerlwilson.com).