Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: science fiction
Review: I love a good generation-ship story. The sociological (and technological) possibilities are endless when a self-contained group of people is left on their own for hundred or thousands of years. There is so much room for an author to use their imagination on the fate of human society. But there are rules. To me, the most fundamental rule of world-building of any kind is that all the pieces have to hang together. An author can't just throw in an arbitrary bit of the world just for the heck of it; it has to matter to the plot. Otherwise it just hangs there like a vestigial organ.
Unfortunately, this book seems to have a lot of that. Vestigial organs include:
- gender identity - Solomon creates a structure where children on one deck are all referred to as girls (until they did something to indicate that they weren't actually a girl) and on another deck all children are referred to gender neutrally. This is a perfectly legitimate thing to do, except that it doesn't seem to matter in terms of the plot, or anything else in the book. It just sits there, like the proverbial gun that is introduced in Act One, but fails to go off by Act Three.
- religion - Solomon seems to be trying to set up the system on the ship as being driven by a very strict theocracy, except aside from mentioning that leaders of the ship are supposed to given their power and authority by their god, religion doesn't actually seem to play much of a part of the story. Except one character engages in some ritual self-flagellation. There was that.
- neuroatypicality - Our main character, Aster, is an interesting person, who displays symptoms of something along the lines of Asperger's Syndrome. Whether that's the diagnosis Solomon intended Aster to have is neither nor there, because the question is why Aster is portrayed in this at all. The only plot point for which her symptoms seem relevant is to create tension when she can't understand the motivations of the Surgeon, and to therefore create wholly unnecessary and artificial tension between them.
To say that all of this detracted from the story as a whole is an understatement. If only the plot were strong enough to bear the weight of all that, but it's not. I could never quite figure out what was supposed to be driving the plot. Was it the plight of the people on the ship altogether, or specifically Aster's search for answers about her mother? Or was the latter supposed to inform the former in the task of pushing the story forward? I don't know, and by the time the book wrapped up, I didn't much care.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.