An Unkindness of Ghosts

An Unkindness of Ghosts

Book - 2017
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"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"--Page 4 of cover.
Publisher: Brooklyn, New York, USA : Akashic Books, [2017]
ISBN: 9781617755880
1617755885
Characteristics: 349 pages ; 21 cm

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GRPL_staffpicks Apr 06, 2020

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. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot--if... Read More »


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Hillsboro_JeanineM Jul 14, 2020

The Antebellum South is recreated in space with the levels of the ship being a physical caste system to separate people of differing shades of color. The levels are also distinguished by different languages and religious beliefs. Solomon creates a distinct yet familiar world.

b
BisexualBastard
Mar 23, 2020

A stunning, crushing, amazing book. While initially I was devastated by the lack of literal ghosts in this book, I was quickly drawn in by Aster's obvious neurodivergence, then by the richness of the world she lives in. Solomon paints a fascinating world that changed my idea of what science fiction should be forever. In addition, she writes complex characters, and my feelings about them were just as complicated and conflicting as my feelings for real people. Despite the brutal take on slavery (as it should be) the book often felt like a comfortable landing place to rest as I read it. As I devoured it in about two hours, that didn't last long, but a beautiful book like this was hard to put down. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and I think everyone should read it.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Jan 26, 2020

Thought provoking scifi/afro-futurism.

STPL_JessH Sep 19, 2019

One of the Read Harder categories this year includes “a book by an AOC set in or about space.” I chose An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon and was really excited about the gender diversity and fluidity throughout the text. The book is set on the HSS Matilda which is at once centuries in the future and perpetuating the past since the “vessel is organized much like the antebellum South.” Aster is a complex and compelling character and I was surprised by how often her humour delighted me even amidst a really tragic story. I’m looking forward to Solomon’s new novel called The Deep that will be published in November.

r
ryner
Jun 25, 2019

The colossal spaceship Matilda is hurtling through space, though no one is navigating any longer. Its dozens of decks have housed its inhabitants, and Baby Sun has provided energy for sustenance, for one thousand years. Denizens of the lower decks are virtual prisoners and slaves, so that citizens of the upper echelons may live in relative luxury. Aster, a lay-chemist and -healer, lives on Q deck, and in her scant spare time pores over the journals left by her mother before she disappeared mysteriously twenty-five years ago.

This is less a story "about space" than a novel about secrets, relationships and politics that just happens to take place aboard a spaceship. I really liked it, especially the character of Aster. Recommended.

WCLSNorthForkLibrary Feb 01, 2019

A diverse, thought-provoking Sci-Fi about the distant future of mankind, trapped on a giant spaceship for generations and perpetuating much the same follies as we have thus far in our history. It manages simultaneously to be original and unpredictable, with a dark and brooding tone.
~Alexa

One of the most inventive, unique and brilliant debuts I've read. Rivers places the reader within a post-apocalyptic society resembling the antebellum South, but all contained on the Matilda, a ship hurtling through space to a promised land. Gender norms and genetics, plant life and science have evolved on the Matilda, but racism a religious fervor remain. Aster, a brilliant scientist and slave, and the Surgeon Theo risk it all to bring the oppressive regime down. Solomon Rivers is an incredibly gifted writer and I am hoping for a sequel because I don't think this story is over.

KatieD_KCMO Nov 03, 2018

One of the most inventive, unique and brilliant debuts I've read. Rivers places the reader within a post-apocalyptic society resembling the antebellum South, but all contained on the Matilda, a ship hurtling through space to a promised land. Gender norms and genetics, plant life and science have evolved on the Matilda, but racism a religious fervor remain. Aster, a brilliant scientist and slave, and the Surgeon Theo risk it all to bring the oppressive regime down. Solomon Rivers is an incredibly gifted writer and I am hoping for a sequel because I don't think this story is over.

JCLChrisK Jul 17, 2018

A clear 5 stars for characters, worldbuilding, and social commentary. I would go with 4 stars for plotting and pacing. Though it certainly doesn't lack for excitement and intrigue, it reads a bit episodically, with an underlying emphasis on each episode illustrating an experience more than carefully crafting a narrative. But what they illustrate is powerful and significant.

Aster's story is just as layered and complex as she is. Just as real and personal and nuanced. As eloquent, expressive, and heartfelt. And, though often painful and not exactly enjoyable, important and rewarding.

r
rixonkj
Mar 20, 2018

This book reminded me a LOT of Octavia E. Butler. This is maybe an inevitable comparison for any black woman writer of speculative fiction, but there really is a kinship between this book and Butler's work, especially Wild Seed--in the relationships people have with science, with gender, and especially with power.

It's not a happy book. It wasn't always easy for me to read--there's a lot of violence, from rape committed by law enforcement figures to amputations performed by the protagonist. But there isn't much gore, and like Butler, Solomon explores the worst humans do to each other in order to find a way to a world where we can do better.

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JCLChrisK Jul 17, 2018

"You're a little off, aren't you?" The woman grabbed Aster's chin, turning her face so they were forced eye to eye. "You're one of those who has to tune the world out and focus on one thing at a time. We have a word for that down here, women like you. Insiwa. Inside one. It means you live inside your head and to step out of it hurts like a caning."

JCLChrisK Jul 17, 2018

I am a boy and a girl and a witch all wrapped into one very strange, flimsy, indecisive body. Do you think my body couldn't decide what it wanted to be?

JCLChrisK Jul 17, 2018

There'd be no forgiveness this time. It was one thing to destroy a person, but to destroy their work was a sacrilege Aster couldn't easily forget. All that was left of a person's life was recorded on paper, in annals, in almanacs, in the physical items they produced. To end that was to end their history, their present, their future.

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