My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Bookshelves: love-the-title, fantasy, sci-fi, all-the-isms-and-phobias, current-social-issues, outer-space, reading-challenge
This was both #19 and #24 on my 2020 Reading Challenge, a book with a title that caught my attention and a book written by a trans/non-binary author, respectively. I LOVE the title.
There was SO MUCH potential here, but I’m underwhelmed.
The world-building was phenomenal, with the story set on a gargantuan generational spaceship searching for a habitable world after climate change finally wipes out Earth. Culture is lushly painted, a theocracy ruling the ship, the upper decks reserved for the white elite and people of color relegated to the slum lower decks. I loved the rotating field decks on which crops are grown under the ship’s Baby Sun. The whole ship, so big that different decks have different languages, is a nice metaphor for our entire society, and issues of classism, sexism, trans- and homophobia, racism, ableism, and the myriad traumas that go along with those are included.
The characters are also fantastic. Our heroine, Aster, is a black woman who serves as a healer for her fellow slaves, nurturing healing plants and concocting curatives in her hidden botanarium while enjoying the personal friendship of one of the elites of the theocracy, the Surgeon General and nephew of the cruel reigning Sovereign. Aster is somewhere on the autism spectrum, perhaps with Asperger’s Syndrome (apologies, this isn’t my wheelhouse), and her viewpoint and voice are a delight. I loved Aunt Melusine and my heart ached for Giselle.
The writing is also lovely:
“In my language, there is no word for I. To even come close, you must say, E’tesh’lem vereme pri’lus, which means, this one here who is apart from all. It’s the way we say lonely and alone. It’s the way we say outsider. It’s the way we say weak.”
That’s where my praise ends, unfortunately. The plot felt a bit aimless to me. Things would ramp up for a chapter, then meander off into a flashback, then come back to the present with a different plot point or character point of view. Kind of all over the place. It all comes together in the end, but it felt almost like an accident.
I wanted to love it, and a lot of people do, but while I didn’t outright dislike it, I had to push a little to finish it. As always, your mileage may vary.