You probably know I have a series called Flirting with the Zodiac, which features a bunch of alien romances. In each book, we meet a new alien species (and a new couple), against a bleak dystopian future.
Humanity launched themselves into space and traveled to far-flung planets. Of course, that means they’ve been swept up into various interplanetary tensions.
A funny thing about the series, though, is that the current release order has nothing to do with the chronology of the world.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a C.S. Lewis thing going on here. The Chronicles of Narnia was (somewhat infamously) written “out of order.” The order we typically read them in was only sort of decided after the fact. Lewis debated the “correct” ordering of the series with fans, and he eventually decided on this order.
That said, he didn’t think that meant that order was necessarily the be-all, end-all. You could certainly read the books in a different order, if you wanted to. Many people did, because the books were originally released in a very different order.
So, some people definitely read them in the “original” order of publication, which isn’t necessarily chronological. That is, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was first. Prince Caspian (which is now typically the fourth book in the series) followed. The Magician’s Nephew, which is now first in reading order, was actually published second-to-last. The only book that maintained its reading order is the aptly named The Last Battle, which was published last.
I Published the Flirting with the Zodiac Books in the “Wrong” Order
So: I’ve pulled a bit of a C.S. Lewis on you folks here. The Zodiac books are not “in order” chronologically. That is, Hook, Line & Sinker isn’t the first book in the series chronologically. Riding the Dragon was the second published title. In terms of when it takes place within the world, thought, it’s a much later entry.
Keep in mind that this series is incomplete at the moment. There will be a total of thirteen books in the Flirting with the Zodiac series, but only six titles have been released. This reading order will likely change, and I’ll keep this post updated.
So, what order should the Flirting with the Zodiac books be read in, if you want to follow the story chronologically?
Main Squeeze Should Be the First Flirting with the Zodiac Book
Main Squeeze is actually first book I completed in the Zodiac series, and chronologically, it’s first in the series. This book follows Marty, a human space explorer stranded on an unknown planet.
Marty’s story kicks off everything else that goes on in this world. He’s the first human to make contact with an alien species. That humans set up diplomatic relations with the naga after is important. It sets the stage for intergalactic imperialism and intergalactic relations with other alien species.
So, if the book is first chronologically and it was finished first, why wasn’t it the first one published?
Another hint that this book should be first in the series? Marty travels to Barnard’s Star, which is relatively close to Earth—about five light years away. That’s still way beyond our current travel capabilities, but it’s reasonable to assume we’ll travel to near stars first. So, this indicates humanity’s interplanetary/intergalactic travel tech is still relatively new.
Quite simply, Hook, Line & Sinker was an easier write and lined up with when I wanted to launch the series. Main Squeeze—which aligns with the constellation Ophiuchius—would need to be published in November or December.
The Bull by His Horns
Books 3 and 4 do actually follow one another, and that’s partially because The Bull by His Horns was the second manuscript I wrote in the series. It also features the naga, but it introduces us to the Taureans, bull-shifting aliens.
Bull is the only story set on Earth thus far. It shows us developing tensions between Earth, the naga, and maybe other aliens as well. Humans have traveled to the home of the Taureans, which is another relatively close star. We also see some of the fallout of Earth’s “diplomatic” relations with the naga: we have refugees and apparent genocide. Colonialism seems alive and well here.
Bull thus widens our horizons, showing us Earth mucking around in the affairs of another species, establishing humanity as colonizers. That then sets the stage for the next books in the series.
It was also after Bull that my idea for the series expanded which, in turn, meant subsequent manuscripts took a different turn.
The Raven Before the Dove
The newest book in the series, currently Book 6, would actually fit in after The Bull by His Horns and before Lions Will Tame Leopards. We’re missing a few links between Bull and Raven, but there are still seven books left to be published. It’s likely Raven will move back in the reading order.
Why does Raven nestle in between Bull and Lions? This hinges on events that are alluded to in Lions. The protagonists mention that the Corvids are unreliable allies, seemingly swept up in their own revolution. They have thus dropped out of the war.
We see those events on-page here, as Prince Cirrus leads the fight against Empress Altostratus. Cirrus removes Corvus from the war, turning political attentions inward to Corvus itself.
Corvus took inspiration from Russia during World War I, in that the Russian Revolution forced the Soviets out of the action. In the world of the Zodiac, the Corvids have sided against humanity, becoming part of the Alliance. Here, we see how societies we cast as “villains” are often full of disagreement. Cirrus and his faction disagree with Altostratus, who sent the planet to war on what seems to be the losing side.
Lions Will Tame Leopards Is Crucial to the Series
Lions Will Tame Leopards is probably the lynchpin of the Flirting with the Zodiac series. It was, at the time of its publication, the longest book in the series—and for good reason. It explains a lot of shit.
Lions follows Nix, a leopard shifter on Rasalas, and his adopted lion pride as they try to establish a new, democratic government. Internal tensions mean there are plenty of different players. The royalists want to go back to “the old ways,” and radicals see the government caving to intergalactic pressure. Even the Coalition planets have their own aims in forcing an unfair peace treaty.
Lions is a meditation on (neo)colonialism, how imperial powers force “democracies” around the world to give them what they want. Nix and co. ruminate on that fate, stating that one day, they’ll likely cling to the myth that they’re the only ones who can bring about change.
In doing so, it acts as a connection between other stories. The most direct and obvious connection is Riding the Dragon, where Nix and Bern appears once more. It also points to the events of The Raven Before the Dove, and it sets up future books featuring the denizens of Harriot (the crabs, aligned with Cancer) and the Scorpiates (who inhabit Scorpius, in the constellation of Scorpio).
Riding the Dragon Is Actually Second-Last
Riding the Dragon was the fourth book I finished in the series, which is why it is the second book in publication order. Chronologically, though, this book happens very late in the series. In fact, you can almost think of it as an end cap.
Ex-soldier Cad has gone to the planet of Librae, where Earth is setting up a new colony. Unbeknownst to him, though, his plot of land is in a dragon’s nest. When that dragon shifter returns, Cad embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.
Dragon does a lot of things. One of them is obviously a quasi-commentary on colonialism. Cad has been done dirty by the military. Drake and the dragon shifters are arguably in a worse position. They “joined” the losing side of the war, and as such, the victors see fit to carve up their territory. Cad and Drake first blame each other, but they quickly realize they have a common enemy: the imperialist powers that think they have the rights to dole out “unoccupied” land.
Dragon also connects with other stories in the series, notably Lions. The protagonists of Lions show up here as antagonists, suggesting that “good” and “evil” isn’t always as simple as nationalist propaganda machines make it out to be. Cad has to wrestle with that fact, because he’s been told the Alliance forces are evil—yet the question lingers.
Hook, Line & Sinker Caps Off the Flirting with the Zodiac series
That leaves Hook, Line & Sinker, which is, ironically, the first book in publication order. It was the third manuscript completed, and the first one to move to the “Zodiac theme” and fully embrace it.
It’s also probably the lightest on political fare, although the backdrop is no more disheartening. Piscean shapeshift Ty lives on New Martia, an Earth colony on Mars. Ty and his father appear to be the only Pisceans on the planet. They are refugees from the Piscean genocide that happened during the war. That happened before Ty’s memory, though, so we don’t hear much about it in the story itself.
Ty is best friends and roommates with Lawrence Trafford, whose grandmother is billionaire Myrtle Trafford. Myrtle is heavily involved in the war effort and particularly in technological advancements. The Trafford fortune, then, is built off war, colonialism, and genocide—genocide that directly impacted Ty and his family.
The book doesn’t wrestle much with those implications, although there is clearly bigotry toward Pisceans and aliens more generally, which might suggest how the war happened in the first place.
Hook, Line & Sinker takes place after the war, clearly, and it seems somewhat more removed from it than Nix or even Cad. At the current moment, it’s the last book in chronological order, but other books may slot in around it.
Even then, it might be read as a look at a world—or perhaps a galaxy—that still feels the echoes of trauma, even as it tries to heal and move toward the love that Cad and Drake determine is essential for restoring the balance of the universe.