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An Unkindness of Ghosts Paperback – October 3, 2017
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"My recommendation for today is to check out An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, which made all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy 'best' lists of last year. It's about a stratified society aboard a spacecraft, and it is intensely thought-provoking."
--LeVar Burton Reads (podcast)
"Because the unjust society of the generation ship Matilda--divided by race, class, and religion--is deeply detailed, and uncomfortably close to home."
--Barnes & Noble
"Solomon's evocation of this society is so sharply detailed and viscerally realized, the characters so closely observed, the individual scenes so tightly structured, that the novel achieves surprising power and occasional brilliance...Aster [is] one of the more memorable characters in recent SF, and it's enough, in the end, to make An Unkindness of Ghosts among the most provocative and fiercely passionate of recent generation starship tales, and Solomon among the most distinctive new voices to emerge this year."
"Solomon's big, unflinching and poetically detailed sci-fi debut tells the story of Aster Grey, an orphan raised on the slavery deck of a starship called the HSS Matilda as she searches for answers to her mother's death and the mystery of the forces who control the starship. Aster is both neuroatypical and queer, and these elements of her characterization work seamlessly and nonexploitatively into a plot that mirrors so many of our own world's greatest injustices, probing at our ideas about classism, racism, abuse and tyranny. A stunning first novel by a writer I can't wait to see more from."
--Them, included in 10 Books That Stole Our Queer Hearts in 2017
Included in a roundup of the Reading Women Podcast, Must-Read Fantasy Novels by Women
"This striking debut novel, set aboard a generation ship where white supremacists enslave black laborers, combines sharp allegory with poetic metaphor. Aster Grey, a literal-minded medic, hopes to undermine the ruling Sovereignty with the help of notes left by her mother, but decoding them is an almost impossible challenge. Solomon addresses numerous daunting topics with incision and insight in this stunning achievement."
--Publishers Weekly, Best Book of the Year, Science Fiction/Fantasy
"Harrowing and beautiful, this is SF at its best: showing the possible future but warning of the danger of bringing old prejudices and cruelties to that new world. While a story about enslaved people in space could be a one-note polemic, the fully rounded characters bring nuance and genuine pathos to this amazing debut."
--Library Journal, Starred Review
"Solomon's distyopian fantasy stars quietly rebellious Aster, whose family has lived for generations in the hold of the creaky HSS Matilda, putatively carrying the last of humanity to a Promised Land."
--Library Journal, Included in Barbara Hoffert's Debut Novels spotlight
"Solomon debuts with a raw distillation of slavery, feudalism, prison, and religion that kicks like rotgut moonshine...Stunning."
--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Infused with the spirit of Octavia Butler and loaded with meaning for the present day, An Unkindness of Ghosts will appeal to a wide variety of readers. Solomon's impassioned, speculative, literary book is sorely needed on library shelves."
"Rivers Solomon is a bold new voice in speculative fiction. This startling debut delves into issues of class, race and gender on a futuristic spaceship whose society mimics the antebellum American South...Though shaped like the past transported into the future, Solomon's narrative seethes with underpinnings of the present carried to the extreme, a police state where women have lost reproductive rights and people of color face servitude and constant brutality. Complex and prophetic, An Unkindness of Ghosts will have readers cheering Aster as she fights for her freedom."
"With An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon inarguably shows themselves to be a literary child of genre leader Octavia E. Butler...Suffused with the past, the present, and the future of human experiences in its events, An Unkindness of Ghosts launches the career of a brilliantly gifted and important new writer in science fiction."
--Foreword Reviews, Starred Review
"The HSS Matilda is a well-crafted world, and...the diversity of the people who inhabit it--their various sexual and gender identities, physical abilities, and psychological burdens--is refreshingly visible and vital even as they face brutal discrimination for their differences. An entertaining novel that does not neglect the vitality of its story while probing society’s assumptions."
"The HSS Matilda is a generation ship organized much like the antebellum South. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, sharecropper Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she's willing to fight for it."
--Publishers Weekly; included in Fall 2017 Adult Announcements, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
"A Generation Ship story like no other...Remarkable."
--Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
"Transposing the cruelties of a Southern plantation to outer space, this book was the best debut I read this year. The white people on the massive spaceship Matilda's upper decks live in luxury and keep the black people on the lower decks enslaved. Aster is black, neuroatypical, ambiguously gendered according to her society's mores, and an orphan of the lower decks. While an outsider in her social groups, she is also a medical genius, and with the support and friendship of a light-skinned surgeon from the upper decks, she navigates Matilda's horrors to bring succour and healing where she can."
--NPR, Book Concierge Best Books of 2017
"In Rivers Solomon's An Unkindness of Ghosts, a generation starship has left the ruined Earth behind: the senior crew are all white supremacists, while dark-skinned people are kept below decks as slave labor. In this unflinching debut Solomon invites comparisons with Octavia Butler."
--The Guardian, Best Book of the Year / Science Fiction and Fantasy
"Solomon's strong characters, led by Aster herself, make this a deeply affecting tale that is far more than a simple allegory of injustice."
"Rivers Solomon's debut makes for a stellar gift for readers looking for an intensely thoughtful meditation on race, class, and humanity's future."
--Bookish, Best Books to Give in 2017
"This debut novel will absolutely take your breath away."
--Bustle, Best Fiction Books of 2017
"Here is a novel that puts non-binary and multiracial identities at the forefront of a violent future we may all too easily recognize today...Solomon's fascinating and deeply realized novel joins the imaginative ranks of Octavia Butler and Nalo Hopkinson, each of whom carved out unique places in the largely white male world of sci-fi as black women writers. Solomon, who is non-binary, enters the world of sci-fi with their own revolutionary debut, which should appeal to avid and first-time sci-fi readers alike."
--Literary Hub, Included in "15 Books You Should Read This October"
"In this debut, Rivers Solomon transports readers to a spaceship bound for a new world but very much trapped in the past. When the Earth began to die, humans decided to flee. It's been over 300 years since the original group boarded the HSS Matilda, and in that time a white-supremacist cult known as the Sovereignty has seized power. Aster Grey was born on the ship and into slavery, but a new discovery leads her to believe that she might be able to break free."
--Bookish, Included in "Best Book Club Picks for October 2017"
"A debut work of speculative fiction features a spaceship with a white supremacist cult at the helm, making a generations-long trip to a new world via the labor of a group of enslaved black people living belowdeck."
--The Millions, Included in "October Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated List"
"A truly extraordinary and compelling read from cover to cover, An Unkindness of Ghosts showcases author Rivers Solomon's impressive flair for originality and master of the science fiction genre. A simply riveting read from cover to cover, An Unkindness of Ghosts is a 'must' for the personal reading lists of dedicated science fiction fans."
--Midwest Book Review
"Solomon's exploration of a futuristic yet all too familiarly repressive society is highly recommended for anyone interested in the ever-growing field of SF which is invested in engaging with race, gender, and sexuality as an integral part of any vision of the future."
"The sci-fi debut by Rivers Solomon takes place aboard a spaceship named Matilda, and features a teased and taunted main character named Aster, described as 'odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn,' who is on a mission to discover the potential connection between the deaths of her mother and the Matilda's potentate."
--Bay Area Reporter
"Slavery, racial segregation, and resistance, all set in outer space."
"What Solomon does brilliantly in this novel is in the creation of a society in which dichotomies loom over certain aspects of the narrative, and are eschewed by others...Hearkening back to the past in visions of the future can hold a number of narrative purposes...The past offers us countless nightmares and cautionary tales; so too, I'm afraid, can the array of possible futures lurking up ahead."
"This hard sci-fi novel that parallels our history in post-Civil War America, but is set aboard a spaceship. The Earth can no longer support life, and survivors fled aboard a spaceship. That ship, the Matilda, is now a colony, and segregation is a way of life. Anyone with dark skin is a laborer, while those with light skin are upper class. From what I've heard about this book, it's hard to read, but I think it's an important story that needs to be told."
"Rivers Solomon uses the generation ship setting to craft a challenging narrative of inescapable racial prejudice. In an explicit rejection of sci-fi's typical futurism, Solomon transposes the antebellum plantation system on to her novel's setting, the spaceship Matilda."
"A powerful story...An Unkindness of Ghosts is the novel every queer geek of color (and ally) has been waiting for."
--Black Girl Nerds
"Rivers Solomon's debut, An Unkindness of Ghosts, reworks the generation ship in a way that feels almost miraculous, putting slavery in space to remind us that no act of dehumanisation can truly extinguish the human spirit."
"Through this debut, Solomon proves themself a bold and unapologetic bringer of truth and knowledge, a forbearer of wondrous new possibilities in speculative black fiction...If I need to say it plainly, I will do so now: buy this book. Let it fill you with its vengeful ghosts and hollowed out living humans. Let it hurt you and try to break you and then, when you are spent, let it lift you up and carry you forward. Let it guide you home."
--Women Write About Comics
"Fans of Octavia Butler and China Miéville--both socially aware and critical science fiction writers--will adore this debut, as will any reader eager for a blending of genres and story."
--Read It Forward
"I am so thrilled about An Unkindness of Ghosts, because Aster is the powerful sci-fi lady that I've been waiting for...An Unkindness of Ghosts is a science fiction book that deserves to be on 'must read' lists for feminism in sci-fi."
--Hedgehog Book Reviews (blog)
"Hands down one of the best science fiction novels I've read."
--The Illustrated Page (blog)
"Sci-Fi worthy of Octavia Butler...An Unkindness of Ghosts is a fascinating study of our own society and an exciting new work of science fiction. Solomon has created an intense, brutal world within the walls of the Matilda."
--Mom Read It (blog)
"Rivers Solomon pulls you through a difficult journey that is shockingly real, while being utterly engaging as science fiction...It's refreshing to read a new writer who can manipulate such well known motifs, while churning out a story that still instigates a contemporary discourse, one that dares to remind the reader that the past doesn't always stay buried."
"An Unkindness of Ghosts absolutely blew me away...A must read on so many different levels and needs to be on your reading list."
--Utopia State of Mind (blog)
"Incredible...It is what I wish every book could be: an exploration of the best and worst parts of society in a literary setting."
--Red Hen Book Shop's Talk & Peck Blog
"A stunning debut novel of a colony ship traversing space...I hungered for this and it was done amazingly."
--Bogi Reads the World (blog), included in Hugo & Nebula Award recommendations
"Immediately immersive and sophisticated...This is a phenomenal piece of work."
--Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series
"An Unkindness of Ghosts marks the debut of a wildly talented writer. Rivers Solomon has put together a heady science-fiction novel that speaks directly to some of the most pressing political and social concerns of the modern day. And yet for all that it remains deeply humane, and it's even quite funny at times. This is a book you'll want to read now so you can tell your friends you read it first."
--Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
"Welcome to the Tarlands aboard the space vessel HSS Matilda--home of the poor and rejected--and the setting of Rivers Solomon’s powerful debut novel. Imaginative in the vein of Colson Whitehead, Samuel R. Delany, and Octavia E. Butler, this novel explores the struggles of slum dwellers aboard a spacecraft sadly reminiscent of our own world: rife with poverty, caste, and discrimination as told through the Looking Glass. With outstanding world-building and an unforgettable protagonist in Aster, An Unkindness of Ghosts is a notable debut by an author whose work I look forward to reading for years to come.”
--Tananarive Due, author of The Living Blood and Ghost Summer
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This is one of the first science fiction books in a long time where I saw myself in the protagonist. I was told going in that there were queer characters and that the main characters were black, but I was pleasantly surprised by a recognizably autistic protagonist. Often when people write about characters with difficulty recognizing their emotions, it feels false to me, but this felt very familiar to me.
An Unkindness of Ghosts is interesting, and emotional, and clever, and although it's a hard read (the ship is basically Plantations In Space and Rivers Solomon does not shy away from the horrible aspects of that) it is very much worth it. It's satisfying and rewarding, even if it's not comfortable.
I do think the main antagonist character, the Lieutenant, was one-note, predictable, and therefore boring. I mean, I loathed him because he's a total sadist and abusive person. But I also didn't find him to compare to any of the other characters in depth.
There were also some moments for me where the pacing was off.
Minor things. I look forward to what's next from Solomon.