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An Unkindness of Ghosts

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4.01  ·  Rating details ·  6,772 ratings  ·  1,374 reviews
Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak.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, as they accuse, she'd be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the ...more
Paperback, 351 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Akashic Books (first published September 18th 2017)
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Kay Yes. You are definitely the only one. This book is, about among other things, enslavement. Slavery isn't pretty. It's brutal and disgusting. Solomon's…moreYes. You are definitely the only one. This book is, about among other things, enslavement. Slavery isn't pretty. It's brutal and disgusting. Solomon's descriptions are very on point in detailing how vicious forced labour can be, and is therefore a necessary part of the story's narrative. So again, yes. You are the only one who feels this way. (less)
Julia I think the content is too disturbing for most twelve year olds. A particularly mature one might be able to do it if an adult reads the book along…moreI think the content is too disturbing for most twelve year olds. A particularly mature one might be able to do it if an adult reads the book along with them, and is available to explain the difficult material.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Elise (TheBookishActress)
“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?”

4 1/2 stars. This was so good. Living on the lower levels of a worldship from which there is no escape, a group of characters live constantly struggling to survive, as Aster attempts to figure out coded messages from her mother… and perhaps a route off the ship.

I think to me, this book is about collective trauma within a community. While
...more
Bradley
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This one is rather hard to rate for one good reason: It is good, and I did not like it. I would reasonably give this 3.5 stars, but let me explain:

The good.

Really quite wonderful main characters, all full of interesting mixtures. Astra seems to have autism, is rather more gay than not, but more closely binary. She's also strong and pretty brilliant and she also has a tendency to say exactly what she means and do exactly as she wants, regardless of whether it's safe for her to do so. This is a
...more
Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
Shiver shiver, tremble tremble. I am not nervous about writing this review at all. I do not have any of my typical book was too good to write a review for it jumbles. Nope. Feeling at my most confident here. *escapes*
Can we just agree to make this book as famous as possible and leave it at that? No? I'll have to elaborate?.. Oh.. Alright…

So... We've got a spaceship that has escaped a dying Earth centuries ago. Naturally, it's failing. Of course, due to various constrictions, combined with
...more
Cindy Pham
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this! I love how the book incorporated intersectional black/gender identities and paralleled the antebellum South to create a richer story. It was a unique take on the scifi & dystopian genre that opens wider paths for inclusive storytelling. I'm not just giving it diversity points - I truly believe the author's inclusion of autism and queer identities was purposeful in painting a deeper story that reflects our society. Aster feels real and I loved being in her headspace ...more
Monica
Back in 2016 (which seems so long ago), Barrack Obama was in the last year of his Presidency and I was still sane. Anyways, that was the year my cup runneth over with slave narratives. I read three that year: Kindred, Homegoing and The Underground Railroad. All three were excellent, but they are slave narratives. Painful, infuriating and heartbreaking to read. Provocative of angry emotions. I came to loathe slave narratives for their incongruence to humanity, their unfairness, their lack of ...more
Kay
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reread- #RWLChallenge: A book with an intersex main character.

Now that this is out I'm looking at everyone like..."y'all gon' read this or nah?"

Pre-publication review below the cut:


I wanted to give myself to some to fully process “An Unkindness of Ghosts” before writing my review. There is a lot to unpack. Let’s start with how good I think this book is. It has multiple layers that one can spend close to an eternity unpacking. A number of themes jumped out at me while reading this novel. They
...more
Beverly
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Katzman
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Somewhat like a mashup between Battlestar Galactica, The Handmaid's Tale, and Roots. The thematic premise of this story seems to be that even in the future (about 300 years) in a situation where humanity is traveling between stars, the current unjust class system will not only be reproduced but will be exacerbated. We won’t have some flatline merit-based, deprivation free world. Solomon has created the anti-Star Trek.

The storyline finds, like in Galactica, a colony ship traveling from Earth to
...more
Lata
Devastating. Beautiful. A story of a generation ship travelling away from earth for centuries, with each deck containing a different strata of people and privileges. The upper decks are home to the Sovereign and his brutal guards, and the various privileged. The mindset here is sickeningly patriarchal, rigid, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. The lower deck is inhabited by the slaves, who grow the food and keep things running, and who suffer constantly at the Sovereign's and his guards' whims; ...more
Jenna
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing


“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?”

Please, please, please! Tell me there will be a sequel to this book!!! I loved it! I think this is my favourite sci-fi of 2018. Rivers Solomon is a fantastic writer and storyteller, her characters so real and deep. It only took about 10 pages for me to be submerged in this story, and there I stayed for the entirety of the book.

Sometime in the
...more
Allison Hurd
This book was interesting. I'm not quite sure how to categorize it. Set on a gen ship with the social constructs of the Antebellum South, this book is less about spacefaring, heroes, or mystery, and more about the psychological impact of subjugation, trauma, and class over those generations, and what it means to be a person. It was a bit...jumpy as a read, though. The personal parts were easily 4 or even 5 stars. The structural parts were 2 or 3.

CONTENT WARNING: (no actual spoilers, just a list
...more
Philip
3.75ish stars.

This book is strange and far from exciting, but it’s also kind of beautiful. Solomon manages to make this historical, contemporary, and futuristic all at once. The writing is incredibly assured for a debut author.
Basia
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely FIVE beautiful and gorgeous STARS!

My dear fellow readers: I’ve read quite a few books this year (as have we all), many of which I truly loved. But I have to say that this one is beyond question, my most favorite book of 2017.

It is one of those rare finds that pulls you in—body and soul—after a mere page or two. Aster was magnificent as the protagonist. Such an odd character, but one I couldn’t help but love.

The story takes place on a giant spaceship, one that’s been traveling for
...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Summary:Great characters and world building, but I didn't feel totally engaged in the story and I didn't love the plot.

"Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSSMatilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South....the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human. When the autopsy ofMatilda's sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother's suicide
...more
Anthony
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-group-2018, fantasy, sf
There is a powerful imagination at work here, as well as a deeply felt sorrow and a hard-earned rage. And there is a wonderfully vivid sense of characterization, bringing to life (especially in its depiction of the “low deckers” but less so with the villains) a cast of characters who are invariably brilliantly smart and delightfully oddly mannered, all of whom are courageously struggling to maintain their dignity in the face of a host of horrors perpetrated against them.

What’s missing a bit as
...more
Emily
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

This is some FABULOUS science fiction. If you want sci-fi with substance, look no further.

Solomon uses the setup of the HSS Matilda to examine collective trauma. We see through the main character Aster, as well as other characters, the implications big and small of the active oppression of people of color. I also really liked that Solomon really dives deep into the ways in which white supremacy and hyper-strict gender roles (particularly in regards to masculinity) go hand in hand.

I
...more
Taryn
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have read a few books lately, of which this is one, that have made me reflect very seriously on how good my life has been and how undeserved that goodness is. It’s a cliché to say I’m grateful in a world where we post selfies captioned #blessed, where we shamelessly flaunt our good fortune like it’s something we earned, or worse, something owed to us. For a while I’ve wondered what to do with the knowledge that my life is privileged in so many ways, and while I still wrestle with that ...more
Bogi Takács
Update: My review is finally online! It is long!

http://www.bogireadstheworld.com/nove...

This was what I had up here previously:

This was awesome! Review coming soon IY"H, I still need to write it. (It was supposed to go up at the end of January, so February will have two intersex book reviews. Sorry for the delay!)

If you think you might need content warnings, PLEASE wait for the warnings in the full-length review, because there will be a lot. This book has descriptions of torture etc.

Source of
...more
autumn
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of sci fi with a human touch
this was completely incredible. i don't even know how to describe it, just phenomenal. it's an intricate analysis of classism + racism within a beautifully imagined sci fi world (though horribly harsh and cruel, not unlike our own world). this book is literally exactly what sci fi should be and i can't wait for the author's next 100 books!

in terms of representation, all the main characters are black and most of them are queer; the author is black and queer. most of the main characters are
...more
Tori (InToriLex)
Find this and other Reviews at In Tori Lex

Actual Rating 4.5 Stars
Through the lens of Aster we are thrown into a harsh world where people have been used as slaves to help navigate the space ship Matilda, to the Promised land for over three hundred years. Aster is a compelling brilliant and queer character. She's on a mission to discover what happened to her mother and fight back against the cruelty of the guards and leaders of Matilda. The low-deckers live on the poorest part of the ship, are
...more
Acqua
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.75 stars.

An Unkindness of Ghosts is a sci-fi novel set on a generation ship, Matilda, which is organized in way which is very similar to the antebellum South of the USA.

I have a problem with second halves, lately. An Unkindness of Ghosts is one of the many books I read recently in which the first half had so much potential to become something truly unforgettable and then... the book didn't do much with it. Not as much as I though it could have, anyway.

An Unkindness of Ghosts's worldbuilding is
...more
Silvana
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rob
Executive Summary: This book is brutal and hard to read at times, but very well written and I ended up enjoying it far more than I expected to from the blurb alone.

Full Review
I hadn't heard of this book at all before it was chosen as the March pick for Sword & Laser. The blurb really didn't excite me, so I decided to borrow this from the library and ended up having my hold come in much earlier than I'd planned.

The first few chapters didn't really pull me in. Aster is an oppressed "lower
...more
Gretchen
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible, relevant, harrowing and fascinating, this is the story of a young woman in the low class of a brutally stratified generation ship. Her search for clues to her mother's death lead her to discover some difficult truths about the ship's voyage. Aster's voice is so solid, her experiences read as tangible, every surface and texture feel real both physically and emotionally. Readers of dystopias that explore race, gender, disability, sexuality, and class will not want to miss this one. It ...more
Mimi
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mimi by: Sword and Laser pick for April 2018
An intensely hard read, at times very painful, but an important book about gender and identity, set on a stratified, segregated generation ship drifting aimlessly through the universe. Beautifully written.

I can't believe this is a first novel. It reads like Rivers Solomon has been publishing award-winning books their whole life.

Star ratings are meaningless when it comes to books like these, but I just wanted to say mine is a reflection of how the ending affected me and not what I think of the
...more
Mareike
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elliot
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Two and a half stars

This is a really good book. And I did not like it at all. Those things are not mutually exclusive.

This book is a slave narrative filled with all the horror that entails. It is also, primarily, a character study. Solomon does, I think, a good job at drawing a complex and rich portrait of a queer black woman who sits somewhere upon the autism scale, and who has a history of abuse and trauma. This is no small feat, and Solomon's writing is up to the task.

The problem, for me, was
...more
Mara
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc, science-fiction
I love a good generation-ship story. The sociological (and technological) possibilities are endless when a self-contained group of people is left on their own for hundred or thousands of years. There is so much room for an author to use their imagination on the fate of human society. But there are rules. To me, the most fundamental rule of world-building of any kind is that all the pieces have to hang together. An author can't just throw in an arbitrary bit of the world just for the heck of it; ...more
Dramatically Bookish (ReviewsMayVary)
I really liked this book all the way to the end. Like, is there more book left somewhere?

Also, I'm thinking of collecting a list of books with main characters that are coded as having Autism without anyone actually calling it that. This book goes on the list.
Hank
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi-club-read
I am pretty sure I need a mental health break after that. Solomon packed a ton of trauma and outrage into a relatively short book and some (me) might say too much. I will admit that she did a phenomenal job of keeping my outrage sharp. Normally with a full on assault like this and the various avenues it hit me from, I get desensitized. Instead I ended up annoyed that there was so much happening to Aster and the lower deckers.

From the plantation in space theme to the class warfare to the 1950s
...more
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1,023 followers
Rivers Solomon writes about life in the margins, where they are much at home. They currently live and write in Cambridge, UK, but they originally hail from the US, where they received their MFA from he Michener Center for Writers and their BA from Stanford University.
“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?” 20 likes
“Pretty was a strange thing to concern oneself over. Pretty was subjective and fallacious.” 16 likes
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