Book Review: An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She's used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she'd be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.
Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, whom they consider to be less than human.
When the autopsy of Matilda's sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother's suicide some quarter century before, Aster retraces her mother's footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she's willing to fight for it.
Oh my sweet Jesus. This book had me feeling so many things I could barely put it down - and in fact went to work the next morning on 3 hours sleep because I am really REALLY bad at self control.
Aster's struggle to understand her mother, herself and her place on the Matilda are endearing and heart wrenching at the same time. Watching her spread her wings and forge her own future, apart from the oppressive regime and all it stands for - was like watching a cocoon split open to unveil a butterfly.
Despite the dire situation that the passengers of the Matilda find themselves in, I loved the nuances of the different takes on gender roles and identites on the different levels of the ship, and how ideas and knowledge had become compartmentalised within the confines of the steel beams and brutal overlords - it added an element of complexity that is easy to overlook when writing fiction.
There simply aren't enough words for all the feels I had with this book - Rivers Solomon is a brilliant author and I will be adding them to my "buy immediately" book list going forward, and you should too!