This book fits into my Underrepresented bingo slot. Rivers Solomon is a black woman writing in sci-fi. I wanted so much to like this book, I really did, but I bounced hard off of it and struggled to finish. I can appreciate, intellectually, what Solomon was going for but I did not enjoy my time with this book at all.
The book is set on an inter generational space ship that is starting to break down. And though humans have left Earth behind, they haven’t left any of the prejudices or hatreds on the ground. Aster, the main character, belongs to Q deck and is viewed as one of the ‘lesser’ humans by the religion and culture of the ship. People on her deck are good only for slave labor. However she’s extremely smart and is taught to be a doctor and scientist by someone from one of the upper decks. She discovers that something is wrong with the ship, and struggles to save it and everyone on it before a racist scumbag (who has it in for her) takes over as leader of the ship.
This sounds like it really should be my exact cup of tea, and it’s certainly garnered it’s share of praise from many corners, but this just didn’t work for me. Part of it is that Aster is not an easy character to follow, or like. The book is written from Aster’s point of view, and I’m fairly sure we’re meant to infer that she’s not neurotypical from the writing style that Solomon adapts for the majority of the book. It was not pleasant to read, I know it was a deliberate writing choice because there are small segments of the book told from other character’s points of view and each one of those segments felt like a breath of fresh air. And so I struggled through the book, and while I appreciate what Solomon was doing I didn’t enjoy it. There are some other issues in the book, for example, a lot of the characters and the character relationships feel flat. I never got the depth of feeling that Aster is supposed to have for one of the characters, which unfortunately ruined what was supposed to be an emotional height during the climax of the novel. The ending felt rushed, and thanks to the emotional flatness of the novel, unearned. The thing is, I’m not sure how much of that can be attributed to the fact that Solomon was writing from the POV of someone who isn’t neurotypical.
Ultimately, this novel didn’t work for me. It clearly worked for a number of other people. I think this is probably a good example of “it’s not the book, it’s me”.