An Unkindness of Ghosts – Rivers Solomon #DiverseDecember #12

“You can’t see the big picture, only the petty, small, meaningless pleasures and pains of your tiny lives. Mating and drinking and carrying on no better than the draft horses who stubbornly refuse to work when they’ve got a sore ankle.” Lieutenant’s lips snarled. “We have a purpose. Matilda has a purpose. We are on God’s path, and we mustn’t stray. It has been centuries, and it will be centuries more. All we can do is live well. Live good, according to the Heavens’ will.”

Aster lives in the lowdecks of the HSS Matilda. For years the Lieutenant has had a vendetta against her, making her life difficult and, sometimes, the lives of people around her. Aster is smart, persistent and finds social cues difficult to read. She’s never explicitly described as autistic but there are several moments where the ways in which she deals with sensory overload are detailed. Like all of the people on lowdeck, Aster has a job. Which, for her, is working in the fields. However, she is also apprenticed to the Surgeon from whom she learns medical procedures to support those in the lowdecks. 

Aster’s mother killed herself when Aster was young. Her coded journals remain, detailing her work in the hub of the ship. When Aster’s friend Giselle manages to decode them, Aster believes they may reveal something new about her mother’s death and sets out to find out more.

An Unkindness of Ghosts is a fresh, gripping tale with a protagonist rarely seen in literature. Solomons incorporates characters who are gay, bisexual, asexual, use they/them pronouns, are working class, upper class, are Black female engineers and medics. If I was writing a strapline for it, it would be A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet meets Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer written by a Black non-binary person. Solomons has a new novel publishing in 2021 and I’ll be front of the queue. 

An Unkindness of Ghosts is published by Akashic Books. The copy I read was my own purchase. 

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