Out in the darkness of space, something is targeting the Greatships.
With their vast cargo holds and a crew that could fill a city, the Greatships are the lifeblood of human occupied space, transporting an unimaginable volume – and value – of goods from City, the greatest human orbital, all the way to Tradepoint at the other, to trade for xenoglas with an unknowable alien species.
It has always been Marca Nbaro’s dream to achieve the near-impossible: escape her upbringing and venture into space.
All it took, to make her way onto the crew of the Greatship Athens was thousands of hours in simulators, dedication, and pawning or selling every scrap of her old life in order to forge a new one. But though she’s made her way onboard with faked papers, leaving her old life – and scandals – behind isn’t so easy.
She may have just combined all the dangers of her former life, with all the perils of the new…
Where do I ever begin with this review !?
I could type four lines worth of Aaaaaah but that’s not very useful is it ?
So let’s start with a disclaimer of sorts. People far more versed and well read on Sci-Fi than me have heaped praise on how good of a space opera this is, but for my part I tend to mostly consume this sub-genre on the screen rather than reading it. So take this review for what it is in that regard : literary Sci-Fi newbie discovers book that doesn’t make her die of boredom because of depressing or bitter existential/societal discourse and dense science/math. Quite the opposite, and instead, I am now very eager to find more awesome Sci-Fi like it !!
With that out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff! From my previous experience with reading Cameron’s work as well as following a few interviews etc. I went in knowing that the author writes a lot of what he knows first hand and aims for authenticity in as much as he can. This book is no different, as all the procedural details as well as attitudes toward them present herein spoke of the easy familiarity born of experience, rather than the more mechanical repeating of someone who researched it all. An interstellar Great ship is after all very much like a Navy aircraft carrier. Moreover the way the reader gets to understand throughout the story how important the Great Ships are to the functioning of this society made for some incredible and fascinating world building.
As for the character work, *deep breath* chef’s kiss really.The protagonist, Marca Nbaro, practically hits the ground running right from the get go and along with her, the reader is propelled into a plot full of character interactions you live for, a long list of mysteries waiting to be solved, and a brand new fascinating world whose main undercurrent is hope, learning to trust others, and the beauties of trading cultures.Truly Nbaro has to relearn how to interact with people because of her difficult past, and throughout the plot she grows so much both as a person and in her skills as a pilot and officer of the great ship Athens! I loved her very much for many other reasons as well and her inner monologues made for some great comic relief at times, or very relatable and deeper moments at others. Her journey is one that becomes more wholesome by the minute as she learns how much she enjoys aspects of life she hasn’t considered possible before, or as creates relationships and bonds that truly matter to her. In fact, her moments of epiphany, whenever she feels like she’s starting to belong among the crew, or as she is having fun bartering with merchant women, or dancing with her friends, made for some really touching passages that went right through all my feels.
Cameron also does this thing where he writes what I like to call character fodder moments. These are small instances of ongoing background action while the plot is being pushed forward by dialogue or “main” action, that reveal all the little quirks and mannerisms of the different characters. I really enjoy them because they add so much dimension to everything and can have varying degrees of significance for the various protagonists.
Moreover, to complement Nbaro there is a stellar cast of side characters ( hehe stellar… cause it’s also set in space … get it ? Right, I’ll stop it), that I truly loved for their variety, diversity, and inclusivity. From Thea Drake, Nbaro’s witty roommate effectively teaching her how to be less socially awkward, to Marca’s various superior officers and mentors, all the way to even the Athens’ AI Morosini, there is an amazing found family trope that ties all of the crew together wonderfully! Added to all that, there’s a romantic subplot that snuck up on me and now holds my utter devotion – I will go down with that ship but long may it sail. Which is also part of an ongoing narrative of consent present throughout the story and characters – something that I always like to point out and praise whenever I find it in a book!!
Another thing that worked really well is the author’s choice to actively show the boredom of a long voyage. The plot spans several months in fact, and while there are quite a few moments of adrenaline inducing action and tension, a lot of Nbaro’s time is spent in the regular and repetitive going through the motions as an officer of the great ship, in between training, flying, and ship/gear maintenance etc.
In short : what a phenomenal book this was!!! It was genuine, it was wholesome, it was tense and edge of your seat, but most importantly it was Fun!
Mr. Cameron needs to stop writing such incredibly realistic, natural, and truly amazing characters because every time I close the book I get sad as I realize they’re not real life friends I’ve just made. I’m kidding obviously, I live for it, please continue writing them, and more importantly to you dear reader, go buy this book cause we all need more of this world and these characters!!
Until next time,Eleni A.E.