Shiver shiver, tremble tremble. I am not nervous about writing this review at all. I do not have any of my typical book was too good to write a review for it jumbles. Nope. Feeling at my most confident here. *escapes*
Can we just agree to make this book as famous as possible and leave it at that? No? I’ll have to elaborate?.. Oh.. Alright…
So… We’ve got a spaceship that has escaped a dying Earth centuries ago. Naturally, it’s failing. Of course, due to various constrictions, combined with pure human nature, the ship is authoritarian, slavery-driven and as violent an environment as can be. We find ourselves following the story through the eyes of several of the characters, but most of them are based on the lower decks, as the ‘lowest form of life’. You can see where this is about to get challenging. We explore life through their eyes and search for all sorts of meaning, explore all sorts of existences.
So let’s just look at the reasons of why I would recommend this book, and let me tell you in advance, there was not a thing I was unhappy with it. This book is PURE AMAZEMENT and I think absolutely everyone should read it. Yes, it was that good and important.
The Book Is Diverse Without Appearing To Try To, Plus, It’s #OwnVoices
I don’t know if I’m making it clear, but I think you know what I mean. Diversity is important, and it’s sought out right now – but sometimes authors only try ‘to make the quota’ – and so insert diverse characters into their books as placeholders. They’re just sort of there, but they feel so forced. This is not the case at all in this book! I think it’s partly because it’s #OwnVoices, plus – it’s just so well done emotionally. The diversity is just there. It doesn’t try to convert you, it doesn’t try to fight a cause, it doesn’t try to explain itself. It’s just there. And it’s so naturally diverse you can’t help understanding it, relating to it, championing it. It’s not diverse in the placeholder sense, it throws away any labels! Even the labels diverse groups use for themselves. It’s diverse on, well, pretty much molecular level, as I’d say metaphorically? You don’t have to belong to a group to exist and be validated – it’s alright if you belong to a group of ‘you’. That’s enough.
The Ship Is An Amazing Analogy Of Captivity
I found this most fascinating. Yes, a spaceship is a spaceship, it’s part of a scifi story. But, at the same time, I felt like it symbolized so much more! Being indentured means there simply being no means of escape, wherever you go, whatever you do. And what better symbol of that is there than a dying spaceship? I feel like this draws an amazing comparison to the life of an enslaved, trapped person. Your life is limited to not even being able to control the choices regarding your own body, much less choices of how your life progresses. This is truly a song to all enslaved peoples, not just slavery in the history of America. My heart wept at the tale, and I believe, so will yours.
I Have Never Read A More Relatable Tale Of Slavery
I have read stories on slavery. Even written by the slaves themselves, stories of their escape. Fictional stories too. And although I could feel empathy towards them, they are stories from another life – a life elsewhere, a life in a totally different time. That automatically makes it harder for us to relate. But a life almost like our own? In a technical environment, and yet – enslaved? That is so much more approachable. And it’s also so well-written in terms of depicting emotions that I feel it taught me much more about captivity than any of the tales I’ve read before.
Emotion Even Among The Rubble
I could have said love. But I don’t want to make this cheap. This is no love story. This is not about a love story. Yet a love story is ever-present. And I’m not talking about between man and woman, or lovers, or whatever you have it. I am talking about human love, soul love – love of the bigger kind. No pain and suffering can be survived without it, and this book is so good about showing it. Human affection, human bonds. It blooms like a flower in the wastelands. It charms you with the way it does. And it gives you hope in a whole world full of destruction.
It’s hard to say, and I’m obviously groping in the dark here, but I think the main character Aster might be on the spectrum, or at least some kind of non-neurotypical. As everything of the diverse kind in this book, it’s not overtly mentioned – but not because it’s taboo, rather because it’s cultural of the ship – there are no such concepts in this society (I’m not sure the concept of ‘woman’ is even present in this society, as the lower deck slaves are without an exception all women.) The way Aster is, is not treated as a deficiency in the book, it’s treated as a way to be. It’s explained so understandably that you will relate and empathise even if you’re nothing like Aster yourself. And it’s not limited to the main character either – Giselle, Aster’s best friend, suffers from mental illness bouts as well, and it’s also presented in a great way, easy to pick up and understand. None of the characters are even looked down on for the way they are, whatever they’re like.
I could go on. The plot, the setting, the writing, the way you’re transported into this incredible world. Keep in mind I listened to this book on a read-back app! And yet it still felt every bit as magical as if I was reading it (usually, books read back to you by a mechanized voice are harder to get into.) But I believe you should discover this book for yourselves. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone, even if you’re not so much into scifi – it’s more character-driven anyway. Scifi is only the setting, the backdrop. The real stuff you’re reading about is the condition of being human in a society that is horribly skewed for particular kinds of be.
Something for the people who have read this already:
I thank Rivers Solomon and Akashic Books for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. I already can’t wait for Rivers Solomon’s next book! You can get An Unkindness of Ghosts here at Book Depository, and by buying it through the link, you support this blog.
Have you read any great #OwnVoices reads this year? Were any of them set in space as well? Talk to me in the comments!