Welcome to the Rift. A tear in space where no ship can leave. When the ZeyCorp ship Gallion becomes stranded, its crew are amazed to find the legendary Jonah stuck in the Rift with them. The Jonah was the vessel of the Fortunate Five, a group who single-handedly brokered galactic peace between the Union and the Felen after a generations-long and devastating war … 152 years ago.
Only here and now The Fortunate Five in the Rift are only three and haven’t even started their peace mission yet, and if they don’t escape the rift in time, history won’t have happened.
I’m going to come right out and say that this book is great. It’s a sit down and savor sci-fi that reads like one of the Star Trek episodes where they get stuck in some temporal anomaly and spend the entire time doing sciencey stuffs until they get free at the last minute. It’s such a satisfying read because it really zooms in on its main characters while stroking your smiling cheeks with paradoxical time and technological tropes of the genre.
This is very much a character-driven story and the narrative shifts from before and during the Gallion and Jonah’s entry into the Rift. We follow Jereth and Leeg (Eldric Leesongronski) of The Jonah from the past and Shaan and Osakka of The Gallion from the future. Hutchings dances from past to future as easily as a Delorean in 1985. Flashbacks to the past (be they from the past or the future characters) is a simple shift that explains a character’s reaction or feelings to a certain scenario. It’s a neat worldbuilding trick and creates a great sense of empathy with every character we focus on.
I think UFS will appeal to Trekkies and Firefly fans alike. The ZeyCorp sections of the book feel very Next Generation-like to me (complete with an android called Dean) while Jereth is a quintessential Han Solo/Malcolm Reynolds space bastard who is brought to life well.
A criticism I did have for this book, given the focus on character development and study, was that not all of the major player characters are inspected under the magnifying lens. This book could have been LONG and I know I’m asking for a lot, but I would have loved to know more about Keila Kva-Sova and Charyne Jaxong in particular, especially after the latter’s explosive introduction to the story.
An extremely positive point to make is how natural the relationships feel in the book. It nods to an enlightened future, again much like in Star Trek, where characters aren’t merely marginalised or thrown in to tick boxes. Everything is so carefully put together that you can see Hutchings clearly cares for all her characters.
This care and attention shows continuously in all of their interactions with each other and in the Rift. I was rooting for The Fortunate Five to get together and start their legend. I bit my lip and held by breath in the hope that Mikolai and his boyfriend Syru would make it out ok. I wanted Uma to win Leeg’s approval. I wanted to punch Mendeg in his stupid space racist face!
Leaving the Rift
At the end of it all I loved being stuck in the Rift with these characters and I was sad when the final pages came and went. The ending was a wonderful rounding off to an enjoyable read. My sci-fi itch was scratched, I was a kid in a sci-fi candy shop, I was as happy as a pig in sci-fi … you catch my drift. Just go and read it please.