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An Unkindness of Ghosts (Paperback)

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Phoenix Books Burlington
On hand as of Jun 23 3:44pm
(Science Fiction & Fantasy)

Staff Reviews

If you are trying to decide whether to read An Unkindness of Ghosts, look at the cover.  Would you like to get to know the woman pictured there? She is not going to entertain you, and if her look is too intense, better stay away. But she will speak truth to you, a difficult, messy truth. This book is more than ambitious; it is the debut of the year. The author is absolutely certain of every step, every risk. It's strange, raw, a little mad, harshly sane.

Aster lives on a generational spaceship en route to a promised new planetary home. The decks of the Matilda are segregated in every way, with each deck virtually sealed off from the others, with its own dialect, customs, and knowledge; the upper decks are populated by the wealthy and pale, and each deck lower becomes progressively poorer and populated by darker-skinned people. Aster, a denizen of Q deck, is the assistant to the ship's surgeon, which gives her much more freedom than most to move between decks, while her deckmates are slaves in the great fields that feed the entire ship. When Aster discovers clues to her mother's suicide, her quest to understand what happened leads her to realizations that will  alter the course of history. With parallels to today's world by turns uncomfortable, illuminating, painful, and hopeful, Aster's tale is full of metaphor and meaning.

— From An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon

This book - a slave narrative in space- was haunting, horrifying, disturbing, dark, but so, so good. The character’s voices were so specific and clear, the relationships so clearly affected by circumstance and yet loving in the ways they could be. This book paints a picture of an ugly world, whose characters still have to live, and still each have their own small reasons to keep on trying. It's also my favorite representation of gender outside binary in any book. Even set on a futuristic spaceship, this book is incredibly grounded in the injustices of our world and ends with a seed of hope.

— From An Unkindness of Ghosts By Rivers Solomon


A Best Book of 2017: NPR, The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Bustle, Bookish, Barnes & Noble, Chicago Public Library, Book Scrolling.

CLMP Firecracker Award Winner

A Stonewall Book Award Honor Book

Finalist for the 2018 Locus Award, John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the Lambda Literary Award.

Nominated for the 2018 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Novel

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.

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.

What Solomon does brilliantly in this novel is in the creation of a society in which dichotomies loom over certain aspects of the narrative, and are eschewed by others...Hearkening back to the past in visions of the future can hold a number of narrative purposes...The past offers us countless nightmares and cautionary tales; so too, I'm afraid, can the array of possible futures lurking up ahead.

This book is a clear descendent of Octavia Butler's Black science fiction legacy, but grounded in more explicit queerness and neuroatypicality.

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.
--Toronto Star

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.

About the Author

Rivers Solomon graduated from Stanford University with a degree in comparative studies in race and ethnicity and holds an MFA in fiction writing from the Michener Center for Writers. Though originally from the United States, they currently live in Cambridge, England, with their family. An Unkindness of Ghosts is their debut.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781617755880
ISBN-10: 1617755885
Publisher: Akashic Books
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017
Pages: 340
Language: English