March’s assignment for the Sword and Laser book club was once again a laser one: An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. The main protagonist is a ~25 year old girl by the name of Aster who lives on the lower decks of the generation ship Matilda.
The ship has already been on a quest to find a new inhabitable planet for more than 300 years; long enough for each deck to develop its own culture. Sadly this has also led to some kind of class-system where the upper decks are basically clerical aristocrats while the lower decks are treated like scum but are still expected to provide for all the food and raw material without which the ship cannot function. The aristocracy is kept in power by a religion in which the ship’s journey is one to a holy, promised land. This also allows citizens of the upper levels to enforce their will with brutal force.
Right before Aster was born, the ship was struck by unexplained power outages; just in time for the previous master of the ship to die. Now, 25 years later, there are once again power outages, the current Sovereign dies and it’s upon Aster, who by now is an assistant to the ship’s chief medical officer, to find out what is going on and how her mother - from which she only has her cryptic notes - is involved.
At first I was really struggling with this book. While the writing style is extremely pleasant, I somehow couldn’t get a feel for the Matilda. Only in the later half of the book where Aster discovers some of the hidden areas of the ship it started to become interesting to me. And all of a sudden I couldn’t put the book down again (except for when I had to) until the very end.