An Unkindness of Ghosts (Paperback)

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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


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 Finalist

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."
--Toronto Star

"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."
--Elle UK

"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.

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