Solomon’s stellar Afrofuturistic debut (a first for Akashic) is set aboard the HSS Matilda, an interstellar space vessel that carries not only a broad spectrum of humanity, but also some of its most virulent traits, including racism and classism. Self-taught medic Aster Grey administers to those in need on the ship’s lower decks, tends a secret botanical laboratory, and seeks answers to the secrets of her dead mother’s past – when she’s not performing mandatory slave labor for benefit of the ruling white supremacists, experiencing violence at the hand of the ship’s enforcers, or trying to have an intellectual if not emotional understanding of how to interact with those closest to her. The inevitable comparisons to Octavia Butler’s work are deserved, and I look forward to seeing more from Solomon.— From Nifty Novels and More from Maryelizabeth
A Best Book of 2017: The Guardian (SF and Fantasy), NPR Book Concierge, Publishers Weekly (SF/F), Library Journal (SF/F), Bustle (Fiction), Bookish (Best Book to Give), Barnes & Noble (SF and Fantasy/Alternate Universe Pick).
2018 Locus Award Finalist (First Novel)
CLMP Firecracker Award Winner
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Finalist
Lambda Literary Award Finalist, LGBTQ SF/F/Horror
A Stonewall Book Award Honor Book
"What Solomon achieves with this debut--the sharpness, the depth, the precision--puts me in mind of a syringe full of stars. 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."
"Ghosts are 'the past refusing to be forgot, ' says a character in this assured science-fiction debut. That's certainly the case aboard the HSS Matilda, a massive spacecraft arranged along the cruel racial divides of pre-Civil War America."
"This novel from an exciting new voice follows Aster, who lives in the slums of a spaceship that is escorting the last survivors of humanity to a Promised Land--a journey that has taken decades so far. The vessel is segregated and cruel, and as she tries to escape, she starts discovering dark connections between her own mother's death and the fate of the ship's sovereign. Solomon has already been called a successor to Octavia Butler, rightly so."
"In Rivers Solomon's highly imaginative sci-fi novel An Unkindness of Ghosts, eccentric Aster was born into slavery on--and is trying to escape from--a brutally segregated spaceship that for generations has been trying to escort the last humans from a dying planet to a Promised Land. When she discovers clues about the circumstances of her mother's death, she also comes closer to disturbing truths about the ship and its journey."
"Rivers Solomon's debut science fiction novel is cunning, dark, and unapologetic; atmospheric and visceral; the kind of story that pulls you in and doesn't let go. Aboard the HSS Matilda, a spaceship in the future, Solomon and her characters deftly tackle race, identity, sexuality, gender, poverty, and discrimination, all with thoughtful insight and thrilling intensity. This is a difficult work that pays off; the rare kind of book that stays with you for years. You should read it now--I plan to read it again."
"This book thoughtfully explores race, gender, and much more, while delivering a story that you won't be able to put down."
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, she'd be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remains of her world.
Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, 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. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot--if she's willing to sow the seeds of civil war.