In An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon crafted a world centered around a young scientist named, Aster Grey. She lives on a multi-level spacecraft called HSS Matilda, in a society that functions like the American South, pre-Civil War. Amidst the systemic violence that occurs between the ships’ leadership and the lowdeck residents, Aster struggles to understand her deceased mother, Lune Grey. Grey is believed to have killed herself shortly after Aster was born. What Aster learned in her attempts to find her mother in the work she left behind was a way to change the course of her life and the lives of those around her.
If the synopsis doesn’t pull you in, take a look at the stunning cover. Absolutely captivating.
What I love the most about An Unkindness of Ghosts is that it’s so rich and complex. A person’s proximity to safety and wealth in the Matilda is not just dictated by the color of their skin, but their gender identity and expression, religious beliefs, and social relationships as well. Furthermore, the character relationships are full of angst and possibility. Aster is brilliant, but she knowingly struggles to express her affections towards her friends and family in a socially appropriate manner. As the reader, you have to navigate the tension between the importance of human connection and the dangers that are woven into the plot.
This book features a lot of science. (Yes, I know it’s a science fiction novel.) The level of detail speaks to Solomon’s ability to build a distinct world for her characters. However, sometimes I wasn’t sure what it all meant. This language was very much present in Lune’s journals. Even though Aster and Giselle, one of Aster’s closest friends, worked together to decipher Lune’s work, I had to re-read passages to keep up. Further, as the number of characters Aster interacted with increased, I had to remind myself a few times what her goal was so I didn’t become too invested in subplots.
Overall, I strongly recommend this book.