Aster is low-deck woman on the spaceship Matilda. The citizens of Matilda are stratified across racial lines: darker people of color on the lower decks with lighter skinned citizens occupying the upper decks. As you might guess, the lower decks have increased police presence and poor living conditions. The upper decks have more freedom and significantly better quarters and living conditions. Sound familiar? The citizens of Matilda were long ago promised that they were on a journey to a new land, yet that promise seems further and further away. Aster, with the help of her bunk mates, friends, and notebook of her mother who died when Aster was very young, endeavours to solve the mystery of Matilda‘s trajectory while fighting for what is right for the lower decks in the face of the tyrant leader of the ship.
This is a very good book that I did not like. The characters are well developed and compelling. The plot unfurls itself at a pace that keeps things interesting. It is phenomenal that the lead character is neuroatypical and intersex. The romantic interest is queer. None of these characteristics are central to the plot which I love. I just– I didn’t like this.
It’s hard to pinpoint why I didn’t like this book exactly. I think some of my dislike has to do with an antagonist that didn’t really seem to have any teeth. The original ruler of the Matilda dies fairly quickly in the story and his replacement is largely absent except for one horrifying show of power towards the end of the novel. The rest of the time, the antagonists are just guards that have a big head or are on a power-trip. I think too the fact that Aster is frequently said to not understand metaphor or symbolic language didn’t jive with some of the metaphoric descriptions of events and environment from Aster’s point of view.