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The Galaxy Game Paperback – January 6, 2015
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Praise for The Galaxy Game
“There is a weight and grace to [Karen Lord’s] prose that put me in mind of pewter jewelry.”—NPR
“This novel is a satisfying exercise in being off-balance, a visceral lesson in how to fall forward and catch yourself in an amazing new place.”—The Seattle Times
“A smart science fictional fable as inventive and involving as it is finally vital.”—Tor.com
About the Author
Karen Lord has been a physics teacher, a diplomat, a part-time soldier, and an academic at various times and in various countries. She is now a writer and research consultant in Barbados. Her debut novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Frank Collymore Literary Award, the William L. Crawford Award, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, and was nominated for the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.
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Top customer reviews
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As soon as he can, Rafi removes himself from the school—and from his planet. He travels with fellow classmate Ntenman to Purnatam, a planet where psi usage is common. There's something extraordinary taking place in the Academes of Punartam, and Rafi discovers that he has an unexpected role to play as tensions between the rival star-faring civilizations play out.
It seemed that it was taking me a long time to read The Galaxy Game. For much of the first part of the book I felt confused. I was 2/3 of the way into the book before I discovered that it was the second book in a series! I don't know if my disorientation was due to not having read the first book or not. I do know that as I read, I had to continually reevaluate everything. I found myself lost in the universe in which it takes place, lost as to who the characters were, and lost in the story itself.
But, as I read the final portion of The Galaxy Game things suddenly shifted into place. I did go back and read the prologue again and this time it made perfect sense—no confusion at all. I then returned to my place in the book and read eagerly to the end. From this experience, I think it is likely that my initial bewilderment was due to jumping into the series in the middle. I will be getting a copy of the first book, The Best of All Possible Worlds. I'm taken with the universe that Ms. Lord has envisioned and hope she continues to visit it in future books.
I initially debated between 3 and 4 stars when it came to rating this book. Since I don't want to penalize the book because I hadn't read the first in the series, I've decided to rank it as 4 stars—I really did like it, eventually. I think it's important to emphasize that this book does not stand alone well. To get the most out of it, I think it would be essential to read The Best of All Possible Worlds first.
I was fortunate to receive an Advance Reader Copy of The Galaxy Game from the publisher in return for an honest review.
The main protagonist is Rafi, the nephew of "The Best of All Possible Worlds", Grace Delarua, who has been forced to attend an oppressive school for the psionically gifted. He escapes with the help of one of his friends, and is thrown unprepared into a galaxy that is undergoing considerable turmoil. We also follow his two friends, Ntenman and Serendipity as they find their own way.
So, there were a bunch of problems with this book:
RAFI: Rafi should have been interesting – he’s scared of his psionic abilities because of the way his father abused his own, and he has a difficult relationship with his mother who’s scared of being manipulated by him. He’s doing exciting things – he’s exploring a new planet, and training for a galaxy-famous sport. Unfortunately, he just comes off as a child who’s mostly passive but occasionally reactionary (he even admits as much in the book) – the only thing he does actively is run away from his school. In the end, when he finds a place in society, it seems to be mainly because everyone else told him what to do.
THE OTHER VIEWPOINT CHARACTERS: I’m not really sure why Ntenman and Serendipity were protagonists – sure, we did watch them “grow up” a bit too, but their arcs were as dissatisfying as Rafi’s. This book was only 320 pages, and it didn’t have enough room for us to get to know these characters and invest in them. Ntenman’s voice was pretty charming, and I at least looked forward to his dry humour, but Serendipity seemed completely flat. Also, we get viewpoints from Delarua, Dllenahkh and the headmaster of the Lyceum (there might be more that I’m forgetting), and there’s even a framing story that takes place fifteen or so years later. This makes the book seem pretty fragmented, especially given…
THE PLOT OR LACK THEREOF: Okay, there is nominally a plot – the protagonists come of age in a time of great galactic turmoil, which they are marginally involved in. Emphasis on the “marginally”. As I said earlier, a lot of the stuff that happens is just Rafi reacting to what other people tell him to do, and most of the time, he just does it. So yes, a lot of stuff happens, but we’re just left with burning curiosity about what’s actually going on. For example, a planet gets attacked by a rival faction, but we have very little context for it, so it’s not very impactful, except for a generic “war is bad” way. And there are many factions, each with their own agenda, but we know very little. But the plot isn’t even about the galactic conflict, per se, but about developing a new transportation technique… that somehow involves a sport that Rafi is uniquely qualified to play, but it’s actually about Rafi and his friends growing up, but there’s also the plot of the framing story…
CHARACTERS FROM THE PREVIOUS BOOKS: Okay, I loved Delarua and Dllenahkh and the assorted supporting characters in The Best of All Possible Worlds, but they should not have been in this book this much unless it was at least twice the size. Pretty much everyone shows up, and we learn all about their problems, and how they’re resolved (Freyda and Lanuri’s marriage, Lian’s worry over the missing Queturah), and they add to the mess of plots already in the book.
If I were to describe the flaws of "The Galaxy Game" in one word, it would be “unfocused”. Both of Lord’s previous books were pretty intimate – they were mostly focused on one or two people and the consequences to their own life, and she’s very good at that type of narrative. She seems to be trying to do that in this book, focusing somewhat on Rafi and his friends’ coming of age, but it doesn’t really work that well because there’s so much going on in the grander scale. There was a lot going on in the grander scale in "The Best of All Possible Worlds" too, with the destruction of Sadira, but that was much more personal because of Dllenahkh.
I know that it seems like I hated this book, but I didn’t; I just had really high expectations from Lord’s previous work. The Galaxy Game has beautiful prose and fascinating ideas. It would have been great as either a 600 page book or a novella with a lot of the subplots cut out. I’m still anticipating Lord’s next book eagerly, though – I hope it is a return to her previous form.