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An Unkindness of Ghosts: 04/26/19

An Unkindness of Ghosts

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon is set on the HSS Matilda, a generational ship heading towards the Promised Land. The narrative is split between people: Aster, a midwife living in the lower levels — the enslaved levels. The other is Theo, a doctor who has ties to the current head of the ship and is privileged enough to live in the upper levels of the ship.

Matilda herself is as much of a character. The author has taken great care in creating a stratified society that is recognizably built around the Antebellum Period of the American South. At the same time, it is a functioning (more or less) ship with the sort of attention to engineering as any of the hard scifi novels of the 1970s and 1980s.

Placement of the novel on the road narrative spectrum.

This book also qualifies for the road narrative spectrum. It sits at 996699: scarecrow/ minotaur home labyrinth. It's one of the rare ones in the traveler category that has both a scarecrow and a minotaur. Together, Aster and Theo put the traveler category at 99.

Aster is the minotaur, which is even shown in her name, taken from the Greek for star, and not too different from the Minotaur's actual name: Asterion. Though she has traveling rights to the upper levels to assist Theo, she is still essentially a slave, a prisoner on the more labyrinthine lower levels.

Theo, as a doctor, as someone with blood ties to the current leadership, is a scarecrow. He is a protector bound to the lower levels by his need to care for the people who work the fields.

The collective goal for everyone on the ship, including Aster and Theo is home (66). Everyone born on the ship believes this home will be the Promised Land. Home, though, isn't always what has been promised. And that is the big, looming secret of Matilda, the things that those in control don't want everyone else to know. Despite the change in actual destination, the symbolic one is still home.

The route home one might think is offroad given that everyone is in a ship that is traveling through space. This novel, though, is a story on a human scale. The ship has moving parts, rotating levels, and yet to those who understand the cycles of these rotating pieces, the path is clear and predictable. While there is danger, man-made danger, the path itself, though confusing is still direct, and thus comes in at a labyrinth (99), not a maze.

Five stars

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