Hello humans! Now, when this blog started in February last year I don’t think I would have ever seen myself as a Science Fiction reader. I had read some, but I had my heart set on fantasy and I had no plans to deviate. Then Illuminae happened and the rest is history. I would insert some schpiel here about still not feeling like a ‘true’ science fiction reader because I haven’t read classics or whatever but that would be weird and also would be gatekeeping so let’s just say I’m continuing to look for more science fiction to read, though fantasy is my first love.
So when I had the chance to read The Stars Now Unclaimed I was unsure of what I was getting myself into. I had delved into the world of Becky Chambers so I knew I liked the idea of reading about an unlikely group of people in a spaceship, but would I still enjoy a book that was much more action based?
Jane Kamali is an agent for the Justified. Her mission: to recruit children with miraculous gifts in the hope that they might prevent the Pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages.
Hot on her trail is the Pax–a collection of fascist zealots who believe they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy and who remain untouched by the Pulse.
Now Jane, a handful of comrades from her past, and a telekinetic girl called Esa must fight their way through a galaxy full of dangerous conflicts, remnants of ancient technology, and other hidden dangers.
And that’s just the beginning . . .
Firstly, I loved the concept of this book. The idea of a universe in which some planets have been sent back into a time before technology was absolutely fascinating to me. I don’t know that you get to fully explore the idea in this book, I’m hoping there will be more worlds to be seen in future titles, but it does make for a very interesting set of limitations for the characters. You may have the technology to blast an entire city off the map, but you can’t use it because as soon as you enter the atmosphere your technology will start to degrade. Something about that really captured my imagination and I like the way it needs to be worked around rather than simply using tech as an easy excuse to fix things.
This book is quite slow to start, but once it gets going it is very action packed. There are some moments later on where you do get a little bit fatigued by the constant battle. I’d compare it to that feeling you get watching The Return of the King where you’re just very ready for a bit of a break from swords and orcs thwacking one another. This was a little like that but with lasers – and there are no orcs.
I do feel that, overall, this story is setting up something quite exciting. I’m not sure there’s enough plot or character development in this story to carry it entirely into five-star territory. That’s not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable read, but I’ll look forward to reading later books as I think that’s where the characters will begin to shine through.
There are also some interesting choices made that I couldn’t quite figure out, for instance, we get told about the existence of space pirates, we go with the characters to the enormous space pirate ship and then immediately leave. It does make sense for the plot, don’t get me wrong, but I felt very betrayed as pirates are one of my favourite things and putting them in space is a surefire way to get me excited. Again, I really hope that’s setting something up for a later book because I now need my space pirate fix.
I’ve said space pirate too many times now.
There are some really interesting characters in the mix in this book. Of course, there is the AI Scheherazade, no story like this is complete without a sentient spaceship, but you also have the tension between Scheherazade and the Preacher, who is also an AI but is in a body (part of a dying race). I liked the dynamic between them, and that the author had considered how two very different AIs might interact in this kind of society. Jane herself is also worth mentioning, she avoids being too ‘chosen one and also the best at fighting and shooting and thinking and everything’ as can sometimes happen in stories like this. There is a bit of a romance plot that at times I felt took away from her strength by making her seem a little bit of a clichéd ex-girlfriend but I can live with that.
The Stars Now Unclaimed feels like the start of something that has the potential to be truly exceptional. I shall be keeping an eye out for further titles in this series!
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a digital advanced review copy of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? What are some of your favourite Sci-Fi reads? Let me know in the comments below!