Review: The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport by Samit BasuThe Jinn-Bot of Shantiport by Samit Basu
Published by Tor Publishing Group on October 3, 2023
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Received from publisher

A "Best Of" pick in BookBub | Lit Hub | Book Riot | The Mary Sue

Highly anticipated in Library Journal | Goodreads | io9 | Smart Bitches, Trashy Books | | We Are Bookish | The Portalist

“So much fun!”–Ann Leckie, New York Times bestselling author

From international bestseller Samit Basu, The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport is an exuberant new sci-fi adventure with heart that reads like a mash-up of Aladdin and Murderbotwith gloriously chaotic results

Shantiport was supposed to be a gateway to the stars. But the city is sinking, and its colonist rulers aren’t helping anyone but themselves.

Lina, a daughter of failed revolutionaries, has no desire to escape Shantiport. She loves her city and would do anything to save its people. This is, in fact, the plan for her life, made before she was even born.

Her brother, Bador, is a small monkey bot with a big attitude and bigger ambitions. He wants a chance to leave this dead-end planet and explore the universe on his own terms. But that would mean abandoning the family he loves—even if they do take him for granted.

When Shantiport's resident tech billionaire coerces Lina into retrieving a powerful artifact rumored to be able to reshape reality, forces from before their time begin coalescing around the siblings. And when you throw in a piece of sentient, off-world tech with the ability to grant three wishes into the mix... None of the city's powers will know what hit them.

Also by Samit Basu
The City Inside

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Samit Basu’s The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport is simultaneously a fun and frothy space romp and a thoughtful examination of colonialism and environmental collapse. It is both achingly earnest and bitingly satirical. Much like the city of Shanitport in which it’s set, this story is a chaotic hodgepodge with an inexplicable, undeniable charm.

Shantiport was once a glimmering jewel of a city, part of a galactic empire. Now the city is collapsing, in chaos thanks to the competing rule of oligarchs, clans, and crime lords. Word on the street is that Shantiport is doomed – and the end is nigh. Most people – and bots – with enough smarts and enough cash should jet out of there to greener pastures. Not everyone agrees though. Raised by would-be revolutionaries who tried to overthrow the city’s corrupt rulers, Lina and Bador have been raised to care for Shanitport and its people at any cost. They’re not about to abandon their home…right?

Lina was groomed to be the perfect revolutionary, trained in ethics, politics, charm, and deception. Bador is a monkey-bot built and programmed to protect and watch over Lina – but he’s outgrown his programming. Yeah, he loves his sister, but she’s also a secretive pain in his ass. Bador’s fully sentient and has his own agenda(s). Namely, becoming a space hero and achieving total bot liberation – in that order. The siblings are struggling to work together on their family’s shadowy plans for revolution when they stumble onto Moku, a mysterious bot whose function seems to be capturing footage and recording stories, but not even Moku knows what he’s fully capable of.

Colourful, political, full of life and hope, The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport is a new favourite of the year.

The action in The Jinn of Shantiport centres on this unlikely trio as they each try to incite revolution using their own methods and for their own ends. Helping them along is a space hero from another world and a Jinn-bot, ancient tech that grants the holder three wishes (in free trial mode, naturally). While fomenting revolution is the central plot, there are several episodic adventures throughout that have a “side quest” feel to them. Lina and Bador are busy with Seducing Not-Princes, competing in underground Bot Battles, and spying on the oligarch who may or may not have had their father killed. 

Frankly, I would read about these characters watching paint dry. Samit Basu would find a way to make it interesting and full of banter. I’m very excited to have stumbled onto the work of such an exciting spec-fic writer, especially one who can craft such great characters. As much as I loved the sibling duo, the star of the show for me is Moku. As an outsider to Shantiport, his narrative voice is perfect for representing the absurdities and contrasts of its people and culture. I loved his deadpan wit, his big heart, and his love of a damn good story.

Delightful as it is, this story is not without its flaws. Narratively and thematically, there’s a lot going on at once – while this is clearly intentional, it can be overwhelming. Every page, every conversation is bursting with originality, with ideas, and with jokes. If a little bit of chaos puts you off, you should avoid Shantiport – and its stories – but those who can see the beauty in it are in for a treat. I have a few quibbles about characterization (Lina felt a little flat and I didn’t care for her romance) but I was still completely swept away. Colourful, full of life and hope, The Jinn-Bot of Shantiport is a new favourite of the year. Highly recommended.