An Unkindness of Ghosts

Akashic. Oct. 2017. 340p. ISBN 9781617755880. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617755996. SF
OrangeReviewStarLife aboard the generation ship Matilda is difficult for those in the lower decks. Most spend long days performing back-breaking labor on the field decks, maintaining the crops illuminated by the interior sun they call "baby." Aster has a brilliant mind, but the color of her skin and the deck of her birth keep her from sharing her talents for making medicines with anyone but her fellow lower deckers. Those talents, however, have also brought her to the attention of the ship's surgeon Theo, who tries to help Aster when he can. The impending death of the current sovereign and the cruelty of his heir prompt Aster to attempt to change the social order of Matilda's oppressive regime.
VERDICT 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.

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