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An Unkindness of Ghosts (2017)

by Rivers Solomon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8656020,280 (3.92)49
Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak.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 cook fire. 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. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sewing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she's willing to fight for it.… (more)
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» See also 49 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
I like Ms. Soloman's world building and I would love to see the ship she's got her people on - it's like a moving Dyson Sphere complete with an artificial sun. Aster is a compelling character. Though brutal, her world feels very real. 4 Stars. LGBTQ (ace, trans, and gay characters abound). ( )
  fuzzipueo | Apr 24, 2022 |
I think amazing is the right word for this. I can't say that I liked it -- reading it felt like embracing trauma -- the horrors of everyday life on the ship are legion, are unending, are maddening and revolting. It feels important to read though, important to acknowledge that these are realities in our history, and these are realities in our present day, and it's something, at least, to celebrate Aster - unique, neurodivergent, genderqueer, survivor, as the hero and the fulcrum of the story. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, sort of. Technically it isn’t a series. It’s the only book written in this setting (as far as I know) and stands alone sort of, although the end leaves a lot of new questions. I had read in a Q&A from back in 2017 that the author had both a sequel and a prequel in mind that might get written at some point in the future, so I decided to approach it as an incomplete series.

Audio Narration
The narrator is Cherise Boothe. I really liked the way she read this, and I liked the accents she used for the characters which were very distinctive from her standard narration voice. I didn’t have any complaints, and found her easy to listen to.

In fact, this was the first audiobook in a while where I paid attention easily instead of constantly losing focus, and this was despite that I wasn’t really very absorbed by the story, nor was my mind empty of things to distract itself with, so I think this was a case where the narration style improved a book for me.

Story
This is a science fiction story set on a multi-generational spaceship. At the time the story starts, the ship has been traveling for many generations with no sign of its promised destination. The overseer of the ship is seen as second to god, and it’s a dystopian type society in that there are an elite few on the upper decks who have all of the freedom and privileges while the masses on the lower decks are treated more like slaves than anything else. The main character, Aster, lives on the lower decks.

This book has somewhat unique characters in my experience, and I enjoyed that aspect of it and felt like they were pretty nuanced and believable. I was never all that attached to them, but I did think they were interesting to read about. The dystopian aspect of the story, with all the damaged people and the horrible things done to them, felt like the same things I’ve read too many times before and I think that’s the main reason I didn’t enjoy the book more. I was more interested in the slightly mysterious aspect of the plot, which I’m not sure how to describe without spoilers because it builds up a little slowly.

I didn’t always feel like the story or the worldbuilding was as fully fleshed out as it could have been. Sometimes I wished for more backstory so I could better understand how the journey started, what the society was like in the beginning, and how it became what it was at the time of the story. And then I thought the end was a little abrupt and unclear. I would have enjoyed seeing at least a short epilogue to give the reader an idea of what happened next. There definitely would be room for both a sequel and a prequel, although I'm not sure if I would read them. ( )
  YouKneeK | Apr 4, 2022 |
Astar is a Q-decker living on the ship Matilda. Her mother passed away the day she was born, and she has spent her life being raised by her Aint Melusine. Astar is not your typical person, she finds it hard to express her words and does not seem to understand human relations. She much prefers to spend her time in her secret botanarium or helping the Surgeon. Life, as she knows, becomes dramatically different once Sovereign Nicolas dies and the Lieutenant is named the new Sovereign. She is hell bent on following her mother’s writings and finding a way off Matilda back to earth.

This was such a beautifully written story. I found the second time reading it there was much I missed the first time. It was nice to read a novel with a character like Astar. Someone not the normal protagonist, but still very compelling. The topics of class struggle, sextual assault, and gender identity were weaved in seamlessly. All-important topics, but discussed in such a way that one did not feel overpowered by it. It was a great debut novel and I look forward to reading more by this author.

2019 Read Harder Challenge Prompt: A book by an AOC set in or about space ( )
  BuffyCharpentier | Mar 29, 2022 |
I found this very unpleasant.

Solomon uses a style that reminded me a lot of when I read Beloved, though that was many years ago and I did my best to forget the experience at the time. It's very visceral, and it's a very personal choice for me to hate it, but I do.

I also despised most of the characters. I accept hating the ruling class - that part is pretty common in fantasy, but when nobody is redeemable I get real tired, real quick. I found Giselle and Ainy pretty detestable, and Aster was intentionally hard to relate to due to her neurodivergency (might be using the wrong word there).

As far as non-deliberate problems, I felt the worldbuilding was pretty weak. I also thought Aster's life, especially in the first 60% or so, was very schizophrenic and didn't fit together very well. I despised the other POVs at the beginning of every act.

I'm giving it two stars because I know a lot of the unpleasantness was intentional, but I can't say this was an enjoyable read. ( )
  Tikimoof | Feb 17, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
I want to say about this book, its only imperfection is that it ended. But that might give the wrong impression: that it is a happy book, a book that makes a body feel good. It is not a happy book. I love it like I love food, I love it for what it did to me, I love it for having made me feel stronger and more sure in a nightmare world, but it is not a happy book. It is an antidote to poison. It is inoculation against pervasive, enduring disease. Like a vaccine, it is briefly painful, leaves a lingering soreness, but armors you from the inside out.
added by souloftherose | editNPR, Amal El-Mohtar (Oct 6, 2017)
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Solomon, Riversprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boothe, CheriseNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
TG DesignCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To my mother
and her mother
all the way back to Eve.
First words
Aster removed two scalpels from her med-kit to soak in a solution of disinfectant.
Quotations
What was a person's self but carefully articulated mimicry?
That was all one could do with the past—be satisfied with half-answers, take the rest on faith.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
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Canonical DDC/MDS
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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 cook fire. 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. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sewing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she's willing to fight for it.

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