ARC received from the publisher (Serial Box) in exchange for an honest review.
I pounced at the opportunity to read this barely holding back the squeeing. You mean a story written by Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, S.L. Huang, and Rivers Solomon? YES PLEASE I haven’t read any serials before (I have been planning to poke into Tremontaine, but, well, Mt. TBR), but just from the line-up, this was bound to be good. And it was! As I hoped, this turned out to be exactly the sort of sci-fi I love the most – character-focused, with a side of social commentary. Honestly, I can’t wait for the sequel.
The sun is dying thanks to overzealous hydrogen mining, making the outer planets quickly become uninhabitable thanks to the cold and creating waves of refugees. One refugee ship in particular, the titular Vela, is especially significant – and it has gone missing.
Enter our two protagonists: Asala is a refugee herself, a mercenary more concerned with her own survival than anything else. Niko is the idealistic, somewhat naive youngest child of the Khayyami president who has a talent for hacking and cares deeply about refugees and environmental issues, but has lived a very sheltered life. They reminded me a bit of an overeager puppy at the beginning, desperate to prove themself, but it’s clear that they’re no idiot. Of course, both go through a lot of growth and development over the course of the story because no mission is as simple as it seems.
I have to say I was a bit worried how a story where each chapter was written by a different author would work, but it turned out to be a non-issue. Each author was played to their strengths (those strategic Becky Chambers feels…) and I didn’t notice any gaping differences in style or characters between them. Not enough to bother me. It’s heavy on the themes, and very relevant as well, but to me, that makes it all the more worth reading. It’s a story of an imperfect world, of people trying to do their best, and despite the setting being somewhat of a dystopia, there’s hope. I also appreciated how queer, disabled, and/or PoC characters are not only there as they/we are here in real life, but they actively take the spotlight.
If I had any issues, they’re mostly minor quibbles of a personal nature. I hate when characters are put into awkward and potentially embarrassing situations and Niko’s initial naiveté provided a couple too many opportunities like this. Later on, there was also what I thought was a jarringly out of character moment…but a more detailed breakdown would quickly stray into spoilers, so I’ll end it here.
Regardless, it’s a wonderful serial asking some tough questions and I’d highly recommend it.
Recommended to: fans of any of the above authors, those looking for representation, those who prefer soft sci-fi
Not recommended to: fans of hard sci-fi, those looking for a lighter/fluffier read, those who prefer a clear right and wrong side