An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Genre: Science fiction
Format: Paperback (advanced copy)
Publication date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Akashic Books
Page count: 340
Star rating: 4.5/5
Aster lives in the lower-decks of a spaceship that is flying through the cosmos in search of a safe planet. Although she lives in this ‘underworld’, a place where inhabitants are considered almost sub-human, she is assistant to the Surgeon. The Surgeon is of the highest rank, the man who solves all the ship’s medical problems, and one of Aster’s best friends. Although the two make an odd pair, they are the perfect match. Aster is teased for not being feminine enough and Theo, the Surgeon, is called names like ‘sissy’ and much worse. Not only is she busy acting as a medical assistant, Aster is also on a mission to figure out what happened to her mom, who died the day she was born. She knows the secrets are hidden somewhere on the spaceship, she just has to piece all the clues together.
An Unkindness of Ghosts opens with a scene portraying Aster amputating a young child, Flick’s, leg. Gender identity is one of the first things mentioned in the book, which was very interesting and exciting. Flick comes from a low-deck where children are referred to with gender neutral pronouns. Even though, on Aster’s deck, children are assigned feminine pronouns, she does not consider Flick’s identity weird or strange in any way; it’s just the way Flick is. This automatic acceptance of someone’s identity, despite it being different than the one Aster grew up around, is amazing. Someday, I hope it’s the norm to respect other’s identities without second thought, just as Aster did. I already knew I was going to love An Unkindness of Ghosts from the first few pages.
If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you probably know that strong female characters are my FAVORITE. Reading about brave women who stand their ground in the face of evil that is bigger than them gives me hope that, in the future, well-known books won’t mostly feature male protagonists. I’ve found that science fiction, especially, is male dominated. For this reason, I am so thrilled about An Unkindness of Ghosts, because Aster is the powerful sci-fi lady that I’ve been waiting for. She was such a pleasure to get to know. I found this book comparable, in a strange way, to The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet, which is one of my all-time favorite books. Both of these novels highlight space women who don’t take any BS from their opponents. I absolutely love that.
An Unkindness of Ghosts is a science fiction book that deserves to be on ‘must read’ lists for feminism in sci-fi. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice science fiction novel with a bad-ass female protagonist and interesting commentary about sexuality and gender identity. Thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of the book after I expressed my interest in it. I enjoyed it very much and I won’t forget Aster and her adventures.