An Unkindness of Ghosts
Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She's used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she'd be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.
Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.
When the autopsy of Matilda's sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother's suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother's footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she's willing to fight for it."
An Unkindness of Ghosts is a standalone sci-fi novel by Rivers Solomon.
I feel like I didn't read the same book as most people because I didn't really enjoy this. I think the message of this story was lost on me just as much as it lost its plot. A lot of my reactions to this book are largely in part due to the fact that I went into the book without reading the synopsis.
It is a good tell of a well-crafted book if you are able to fully follow along with the plot without reading the synopsis. Unfortunately for me, not reading the synopsis made me realize how the story suffered due to a severe lack of any kind of plot, character, and world-building.
For the most part, the writing was easily digestible, except for the large number of scientific jargon used which mostly went right over my head. I also think that there were some pacing issues as some elements happened too quickly while the rest of the story dragged on.
As for the perspectives, we mainly follow our main characters, Aster, but at the beginning of every new arc, you would get a single chapter from the perspective of other characters. I thought that it was unnecessary to do so as it added nothing to the narrative.
As I said previously, keep in mind that I did not read the synopsis before going into this. I find that that may have been beneficial (or detrimental depending on how you look at it) for me. I could barely grasp the plot as it was not clear or concise enough for me to grasp and everything is mostly revealed in the synopsis.
The main plot points to a backseat for most of the story and it didn't start up again until towards the end. I felt like I kept blacking out while reading this because things just didn't add up as to how we get from point A to point B. The story, as a result, felt very jolty and a bit directionless at times. It is also not seamless, as all the plot points needed to be connected to form the story but they just didn't fit together properly. There were also elements of the plot that were revealed too quickly while others took way too long.
Due to the content of the book focusing on clear class differences and forced labour, it was a bit of a hard read as I do not like to read about power imbalances. For the most part, I was able to get through it, but there was one scene that I thought could have been left out that involves the drinking of one's fluid outtake. Could have really done without that.
Messages of class difference and forced labour aside, I don't know what the point of the story was. The ending made no sense and left me extremely unsatisfied and bewildered.
As with most worlds, I get myself stuck in the small details like the logistics of the world. The book is set on a ship in space that has been traveling for years. I want to know how on earth they managed to sustain both the ship and the people as it sounds like that would take a lot of resources to make a journey like that.
I struggled with most of the characters, but let's start with Aster. Now, I watched a review of the book where it was stated that Aster was autistic. I wasn't aware of the fact (if it is true) while reading the book so all my opinions about her character may be skewed.
At first, I liked her character because she was very level-headed, but the more I read the more it felt like it was just a lack of personality. I also thought that she didn't really think through the decisions she made. Again, in hindsight, her mannerisms make more sense now knowing how her character was meant to be perceived. What I did like about her character is how savage she could be at times, and she delivered such good lines like the one below.
“Excuse me, but—”
“You are excused,” Aster cut in. “And to clarify, by ignoring you, I’d wished to convey I had no desire to speak with you..."
Then we have Giselle, who was suffering due to trauma and mental illness, and you can get that through her erratic mannerisms and decisions. While her character does make sense, I did feel like I was getting whiplash by how quickly her demeanor would change.
In terms of character relationships, Aster and Giselle's was all over the board, and I could have done without Aster and Theo even though Theo was probably the most interesting character out of all of them.
I wish that I could have got something more and better out of this story like many people seemed to have. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get past the lackluster and jolty plot. If you are looking for something along the lines of Snowpiercer though, maybe this will work for you. Should you chose to read it, I would suggest looking up the trigger warnings due to the graphic content.