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The Wrong Stars

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A ragtag crew of humans and posthumans discover alien technology that could change the fate of humanity... or awaken an ancient evil and destroy all life in the galaxy.

The shady crew of the White Raven run freight and salvage at the fringes of our solar system. They discover the wreck of a centuries-old exploration vessel floating light years away from its intended destination and revive its sole occupant, who wakes with news of First Alien Contact. When the crew break it to her that humanity has alien allies already, she reveals that these are very different extra-terrestrials... and the gifts they bestowed on her could kill all humanity, or take it out to the most distant stars.
File Under: Science Fiction

396 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published November 7, 2017

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About the author

Tim Pratt

271 books539 followers
Also writes as T.A. Pratt and T. Aaron Payton

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 466 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,516 reviews7,720 followers
August 5, 2020
“You know I am, at heart, a pragmatist. That’s why I seek chemical assistance to have less pragmatic experiences."

This was a non-pragmatic experience, a decidedly enjoyable one that was a steady crescendo of adventure and action. I devoured it as best I could around work and sleep, being careful to not read before bedtime. I'm excited to go on to the next.

“Fair enough. I’ll go with you. I’m a little curious to find out what’s in this box myself.”
“Spiders or gold, spiders or gold,” Ashok said.
“Oh, Ashok. It’s like you never even consider the possibility of golden spiders.”

This is the story of the White Raven ("a fast cruiser just big enough for her crew of five people (or four, or maybe six, depending on how you defined “people”) and her crew, captained by Callie, licensed investigator for the Trans-Neptune Authority, one of the large deep space political organizations. She and the crew take odd jobs for the Authority, and are on their way back from a job when they run into an ancient space wreck. When they investigate in hopes of salvage, they discover Dr. Elena Oh in cyrosleep and are able to successfully revive her. She was a member of one of the expeditions that left a dying Earth nearly 500 years ago in hopes of finding a habitable planet, but has instead found aliens. But is Dr. Oh talking about a new alien species? Or the squid-like Liars, who were responsible for sharing technology with Earth that has allowed them to colonize further out?

“Ticking clock!” Ashok said. “Action and excitement!”

This was fast and furious space adventure, with some unpredictable elements. There's only one known alien species, the Liars, so named for their seeming inability to tell the truth about basic history or events, but who have been acceptable trade partners for technology. It's an interesting angle to interspecies communication that doesn't get the full exploration it deserves; it'd probably be interesting to read a book strictly around that concept. However, Pratt does perfectly well with it as a backstory as well. Aliens, space pirates, expedition ships, alien remnants--there's a ton of fun stuff here. There's also a romantic angle to the story that may or may not work for some.

Characters are interesting, and achieve a fair amount of individuality (depending on how you describe it) for a medium sized-cast. Callie; Stephen, the doctor; Drake and Justine, the navigator and engineer; Shall, the A.I. ship; Ashok, the enthusiastic human who is well on his way to making himself into a cyborg. They end up joined by Dr. Oh and Lantern in the course of their adventures. They are a little bit role driven, but that's okay; they each play it well. Ashok ends up being a bit of the comic relief, much like Kizzy the mechanic on "A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet." 

“I like him. He must be good for morale.”
“Insofar as he gives the rest of us a single person to focus our annoyance on, he absolutely is.” Callie sighed."

It's one of those kind of books that I read a bit too fast the first time through, so I skim over some of the details. I get the feeling there's a little hand-wavy stuff about the physics, which doesn't bother me at all. Consider me your friendly neighborhood reader: all I need is semi-plausibility.  This reminds me a great deal of the kind of fun I had reading the Finder series, or A Long Way..., and was actually more fun for me than most of the Expanse books. It was $1.99 on Amazon when I last checked, so I feel like I got a bargain. I'll be reading on.

“When I stormed out of my father’s house thirty-five years ago, I told him my ambition was to travel so far the sun would be invisible, not even a speck among the stars.” Stephen paused. “The young are very stupid, aren’t they?”
“They are. I’m not sure the old are any better, though."
Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews185 followers
November 6, 2017
4.5 Stars
Tim Pratt’s The Wrong Stars seems to have found a sweet spot between John Scalzi’s acid-tongued space adventures and the interplanetary political maneuvering of The Expanse series. The story follows the crew of the salvage ship White Raven, and the mess they put themselves (and the human race) in when they happen upon a centuries old derelict ship and awaken its sole occupant, Elena. Elena believes she is bearing news of humanity’s first contact with an extraterrestrial species, only to discover that humans have been coexisting with a species known as the Liars (so called for reasons you have to read to believe) for hundreds of years. But as Elena’s memory of her encounter returns to her, the crew of the White Raven and its captain, Callie, discover that the Liars may not be the only other spacefaring species out there in the universe.
The Wrong Stars has more plots twists than most novels twice its length, so to reveal much more about what happens would result in one egregious spoiler after another. Of all the things that impressed me about this book, the shear amount of story the author manages to cram into such a compact word count is stupefying. There are no holding patterns anywhere in this book, no asides or digressions that waste a single drop of ink. The climax delivers the goods and then some, and I was particularly impressed with how efficiently the author caught all the balls he had in the air while tossing up a few more for a presumed sequel.
The way Pratt unpacks the culture and background of his future history is remarkable enough; the way he then drops it on its head and blows it out an airlock is even more so. Stories are supposed to be about disruptions to the status quo – it’s a basic requirement. Your protagonist’s world is (A), then (A) is damaged when (B) happens, then the protagonist fights to solve (B), resulting in (C), which is now the new (A). What separates a good writer from a mediocre one is the ability to make that formula feel fresh every time. An exceptional writer can play that formula like a violin. Tim Pratt is an exceptional writer. The Wrong Stars is the kind of novel that keeps fooling you into thinking it’s revealed all its secrets just before it hits you with another stunner. If Mr. Pratt does not already teach a class on how to do this, he should. All of the other writers need to take that class.
If I have any complaints, it’s that the up-tempo pace leads to a few plot maneuvers – particularly in the middle part of the book – that feel rushed, maybe even a little forced. The novel’s central romance suffers the most from this, though “suffer” is a relative term when discussing something as entertaining and imaginative as The Wrong Stars. A few of the supporting characters get shortchanged as well: the story seems to try to plow right through them, barely slowing down enough to let them grab ahold and get pulled along.
It’s easy to swallow a few lumps, though, when you’ve got a novel this compelling and funny and engrossing to read. And if nothing else, it’s worth reading for the Liars. If you are a science fiction fan, you need to have the Liars in your life. Trust me on this.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Angry Robot for the opportunity to read this ARC.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books687 followers
June 20, 2019
Argh. Blerg. Gah.


This is a story of some mercenaries who stumble upon an ancient ship that has no business being where it is, and which is the harbinger of a struggle humans could not stand to survive. It had lots of funny quips, harrowing close calls, and I'm pretty sure the author's eventual goal is for this to be a "woke" pornographic film with something like a plot between the lesbian scenes. Or, at least JJ Abrams type plots, i.e. explosions.

CONTENT WARNING: (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics)

Things that make it tolerable:

-The quips. They are many and witty.

-The imaginative bits. It's very speculative and grand.

-It tries so hard. Every gender and orientation gets repped! Kinda! It talks about enthusiastic consent and all sorts of queer people. I really didn't like how it was done, but we'll get there. He tried. I'm not sure I want to give out cookies for recognizing that there are humans out there who are outside the majority, but some people learn by running into walls. As long as he does better, I'm willing to assume this was a good faith effort.

The problems:

-I'm really not that dumb. Everything had the stupid CW analogy added onto it. "Technobabble, spacey science explanation." "Ah, so it will be like when you hit the bottom of a ketchup bottle." "Precisely, but with more space stuff." Everything. And then it was repeated 2-3 more times each. It's not that long a book, I was able to keep up.

-The women. I'm not even sure what to do here. The one woman "of age" is described as "unapologetically grey" which uh...why does anyone need to apologize, sir? Who is apologizing for going grey? All of the women are hhhhaaawt and like totally gay, except by gay I mean pan, and by pan I mean totally do dirrrrty things with other women when a man isn't available. Seriously, it feels like the only bi/pan or lesbian "relationships" used as the basis of these interactions were pornos. Every time two women were on screen together they were talking about how hot the other girls were and I kept expecting the line "how can I ever repay you?" to get thrown out and then it basically was. Oyyy.

-Performative wokeness. All the key words were used. I get the feeling that I would hurt feelings if I said this was not good allyship. But here's the thing--if your ace/aro person hates everyone, your gay person is now essentially unable to have sex because they've been tortured into some form they find repulsive, and you use the question "what are your pronouns" as an attack against personhood, that uh...that tends to suggest you're not thinking through the intent. You passed the quiz, but I'm not sure you'll get an A on the practical exam. It felt like a Mad Libs of "things you ought to have in books nowadays" with no thought to the underlying tropes or pitfalls that make having heroic queer characters a rarity.

-The pacing. It turns out this was meant to be a thriller, but we kept stopping to have long-winded explanations about things like salvage laws, what constitutes bourbon, and sob stories that no one who had actually been traumatized like that would tell in such a way.

-The conflict. Yeah, I'm really over "everyone in this entire race is evil/can't be trusted/may be killed without repercussion" type stories. I don't like those video games, I don't like that theme in movies, and books are no exception. It's lazy and xenophobic in my opinion and I don't need any help conditioning the "lizard" part of my brain to want to create "us" vs. "them" narratives. I look to fiction to find ways past that crap, and this disappointed.

So yeah. I listened to the first 40% and then I started skimming once we got to the sex scene and the only thing that changed was that the women were able to be on screen without thinking about violating each other.

Very much not for me and I caution my aro/ace and lesbian friends that this one may be worth a pass.
Profile Image for jade.
489 reviews283 followers
March 23, 2021
“i did it for you that time you got blackout drunk after the divorce and they threw us off that asteroid.”

“it was supposed to be a recreation station. it's not my fault they couldn't cope with my level of recreation.”
the wrong stars is a breezy space adventure that mostly requires you to sit back, relax, have fun, and not examine things too closely.

in that sense, it can be an excellent palate cleanser for the more cerebral sci-fi stories out there, as it was for me.

captain kalea “callie” machedo of the white raven is a government-approved salvager and upholder of the law in deep space. kind of like a rowdy privateer, bantery crew included. one day, they come across a wreck with an active cryopod inside, and callie hauls it in to see whether the occupant can be saved.

enter doctor elena oh, agitatedly bringing the news that humanity’s established first contact in a horrifying, eat-your-crew kind of manner -- only for callie to tell her that she’s kind of five-hundred years late, because humanity’s already made new alien friends.

unfortunately, the ones that elena encountered are different. and infinitely more hostile.

what follows is a space adventure with some horrorish elements as elena enlists callie’s help in figuring out what happened to her old crew, who the ancient aliens actually are, and whether the current ones have anything to do with the whole mess. callie and elena take center stage, supported by the crew of the white raven:

ashok, the ship’s mechanic, with a sunny disposition, numerous augments and implants, and a tendency to rush headlong into danger (and into becoming a cyborg). unsurprisingly, he was my favorite :)

then there’s stephan baros, callie’s xo and the ship’s doctor, a huge but easygoing guy with a calming presence. navigator & comms expert janice, a hardass who works together very closely with upbeat pilot drake. and last but not least, the artificial intelligence running the ship: a competent, friendly sort of presence nicknamed shall by the crew, though callie doesn’t appear to like him very much.

alien worldbuilding in this is fun and interesting. in this version of the future, humanity’s already had first contact with a group of highly diverse, squid-like aliens that they call the liars -- and yes, that’s because they lie about almost everything.

the technology they’ve shared with humanity, despite not revealing how it works, allows for the use of jumpgate-like space high ways. and so exploration of deep space has become a lot easier for humans.

unfortunately, most of the worldbuilding is expounded only through dialogue, and mainly as a backdrop for the plot. seriously, these characters talk and talk and don’t ever stop. i wouldn’t be surprised if the liars would secretly call humans ‘the chatterers’.

it��s also not until a liar alien starts playing a more prominent role that the narrative dives more actively into human-alien relations, as well as liar culture. i thought this was a pity, because the concepts are all very interesting and could’ve used a more thorough exploration.

the characters all serve their roles pretty well, but don’t expect a lot of depth or well-thought-out arcs, either. callie is a badass captain who’d rather shoot than wait, elena is a sweet and somewhat naive scientist who wants to make the right choice, ashok is wild and experimental and loves to feed callie’s weirder ideas, and the rest of the crew is just sort of there.
“we have disabled your weapons systems.”

“we've got sidearms, you blob of shit in a spacesuit, and if it comes to it, i'll beat you all to death with a wrench.”
the romance is kind of cringe, though.

callie and elena fall for each other from the moment they look upon each other, so much so that this isn’t even a spoiler. and it’s not even curious interest or careful gauging or some flirting -- no, these two are full-on horny. like, they want to fuck and they want it now, and i have to admit it’s a little disconcerting. both of them also seem very conscious of their respective butch- and femmeness to the point where it gets awkward.

which brings me to the next elephant in the room: the representation.

there is a lot of it. so much so that i think the book has almost an entire queer rainbow of characters in it [1]. and i tend to unequivocally love that, so why am i mentioning it? well, your mileage may vary greatly on whether you’ll enjoy its inclusion.

i’m glad that pratt tried and that pretty much everyone in this story is gay™ to some extent, but not all of it feels truly accurate to the experience of certain identities. some aspects of it can also feel exploitative and very much how non-queer people see us; not how we see ourselves [2].

personally, i also didn’t like how ‘cyborgism’ was considered an expansion of ‘the accepted range of human variation’ just like various trans identities by one of the main characters.

i don’t think there was any bad intent on pratt’s part, but do consider yourself warned if this would bother you. for me, it kinda boiled down to this:


so, should you pick this one up?

i think yes if you’re looking for an easy-to-read page turner with a space adventure and cool aliens, (body) horror elements, space pirates, and fighting the bad guys and saving the good guys.

and i think no if you read SF to be challenged and to think things over, or if you feel that the rep or the romance might push you to the brink of intense frustration.

i’ll still be continuing the series myself since i found the plot + characters enjoyable enough to want to read on :)

3.0 stars.

[1] a non-binary character, a transwoman, an aro/ace character, a gay character, bisexual/pansexual characters (and a sapphic romance), and a demisexual character. plus, the aliens have no concept of gender, so they pick their own pronouns.

[2] i know that an extremely sexually-focused relationship between two women with emphasis on it being butch/femme might be uncomfortable for some readers, especially considering it was written by a man. some reviewers have also mentioned that the aro/ace and the gay character being so horribly disfigured (spoilers, so i won’t go into that) that they can no longer really pursue relationships is also an issue.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,862 reviews1,897 followers
April 26, 2021

I enjoyed it. Lesbian sex scene averted, blessedly, so I had no need to flee screaming. I never heard of a "demisexual" before, so my education continues.

One instance of the dreadful pollutant w-verb on p244. I damn near unswallowed on the page. But to be fair to the writer, both characters (sender and recipient) were in imminent danger of death when the heinous abuse of my eyestalks took place, so I don't doubt but what he was under some significant existential stress.

The characters, Captain Callie and Xenobiologist Elena anyway, are all as well made as one could wish. Lantern the Liar, of an alien race called "the Liars", was less three-dimensional but that's not really surprising or remediable for a character whose backstory is related late in the game via infodump. Lantern is positioned now to be a regular in future books, and she and her race and her religious order are fascinating to me, so patience is a must in reading this first volume.

The master aliens are creepy and xenocidal, and their tech is to die for (haw). The slave-alien Liars have been making hay off selling the said tech to humans for a good while. They've sold more than trinkets and trash to humanity, though it's all come on one Bill of Goods. The Liars have told their customers, who despite knowing the species' tendency to prevaricate whenever they feel like it, that the amazing permanent wormholes the Liars let them use to get to twenty-nine different star systems that humanity is allowed to colonize are the only ones and the big dumb schmucks bought it!

The truth is, needless to say, a lot more nuanced. And a lot scarier: The tech the Liars are selling turns out to have been developed by a race that's so evil that the Liars are terrified of them returning one day. After all, the Liars are their genetically engineered slaves.

Okay, yeah, it's all very Flash Gordon versus Ming the Merciless, but it's fun and it's got humor and heart, so I'm in for one more read before I decide its fate at my readerly hands. Far from the worst I've read, not the best either, and the author's willingness to take the slow road out to a higher vantage point is in his favor. Can't *quite* get to another half-star, but it's not because the story is bad but because it's been good for the past hundred years.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,028 reviews2,813 followers
September 25, 2021
4.0 Stars
Spoiler-Free Trilogy Review Video: https://youtu.be/tn9ktLmfYcc

This was easily one of the best space opera series I have read in quite a while. Fans of Becky Chamber’s Wayfarer series will appreciate the well developed characters found within this cute diverse, ragtag crew. While not an ownvoices story, the author still chose to predominantly represent several diverse groups including trans, demisexual and asexual individuals. Likewise, this novel will appeal to fans of the Expanse series because this story also offered an epic adventure with grand implications within the galaxy. I found the story to be both immersive and entertaining, offering a much needed escapist read. I highly recommend this science fiction adventure to any fans of space opera subgenre.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,248 reviews219 followers
January 17, 2019
The classic small ship and crew in a big universe at ground zero when everything changes. Very much the backbone of modern space opera at the moment.

It's the twenty-seventh century and humanity has colonized our solar system and twenty-nine other systems as well as making contact with another alien species. The White Raven and its crew runs contract security as a sort of privateer for the Trans-Neptunian Authority, the only government/corporation in the solar system past the orbit of Jupiter. When they discover a colony ship that had supposedly left the solar system five hundred years prior but now has some odd modifications and a piece of super-advanced alien technology on board, the status quo gets a huge shakeup. Humanity is on a collision course with the aliens they're already aware of (a cleverly-named race called the Liars) and a terrifying new alien threat called the Axiom.

This book should be my sweet spot, and I love the general idea and plotting of it, but I think there are some high and low points in its execution.

Firstly, the highs. There's an immense amount of information conveyed in this book, fully fleshing out two major time-frames of humanity, a space-based outer solar system society and two fascinating alien races as well, all while pushing interesting characters and plot. This is certainly skillfully done. The Liars are one of the better alien races I've seen with a background that's initially hilarious but eventually tragic. The cast are initially interesting as well with some attention being paid to representation and diversity, but more on this in the lows.

The lows: three main issues, one being the complete lack of challenge for our heroes. The crew of the White Raven and particularly her captain Kalea Machedo, are basically invincible and perfect. You get the impression that the only reason she hasn't taken over the entire solar system is that she doesn't really want to. She really gives the impression that the godlike Axiom really need to start running now, which is fun for a little while, but characters that are never seriously challenged are boring.

The second main issue I had was diversity bingo. I'm all for reading books with characters of diverse backgrounds, gender and sexuality, but characters need to be more than just their diversity. It's like the superhero teams from decades ago (or not very long ago in the case of the MCU movies) where you'd have a range of interesting male characters and The Woman on the team. In this case we get the demisexual, the bisexual Asian, the asexual, the homosexual, the agender African, the Arabic guy, the cyborg and the uploaded personality. We don't get much more characterization than that. (That's a little unfair. Kaliea, Elena and Ashok do go a bit deeper than that, but not much deeper). In a lot of ways the most interesting character (and the only one to get much of an arc) is Lantern, the alien Liar.

The final issue was the romance, which was just poorly done and cringeworthy in places. Also, self-contradictory regarding one of the characters being demisexual, but being attracted to the other on first sight (that's sort of the complete opposite of the definition of demisexual).

And a final note on the humor here; humor is subjective, and this is clearly meant to be quite funny in places, especially with the crew's banter. I'm not sure whether it's a case of it just being subjectively not for me, my mood while I was reading it, or whatever, but a lot of the funny lines here struck me as "oh, that's a joke, I should be finding this funny" and just not.

I think the series has promise, so I'll promote my 3.5 star rating to a 4 for this and see what I think of the next one.
Profile Image for Sarah.
604 reviews145 followers
November 5, 2017
I’m going to start this by saying this book was awesome and exactly what I’ve been wanting to read lately. It’s a space opera complete with space pirates, cyborgs, aliens, alien conspiracies and cover ups and futuristic weapons and tech and a colorful cast of characters.

In general the book was just so much fun to read. Especially everything from the 40% mark on, the pages just seemed to fly by. I don’t want to ruin anything about the plot because it’s full of twists and turns and edge of your seat moments. To give you an idea of where the story starts, Callie, aka Captain Kalea Machedo, runs freelance security contracts for the Trans Neptunian Authority out of her ship the White Raven with her crew, pilots Drake and Janice, Shall the AI, Ashok the engineer, and medical officer Stephen. She stumbles upon some alien tech while salvaging a wrecked ship and chaos ensues.

The characters in this book were so much fun. I especially adored Shall the AI, Lantern the Liar (a species of local aliens) and Ashok the engineer. They all own their roles and feel like distinct, unique personalities. I loved the description of the Liars as a species and thought it was very interesting and creative. These are not your typical aliens.

The weapons and tech were pretty awesome. It included camouflage stealth techniques, wormhole generators, modifiable gravity, magnetic boots, and the list goes on. Some of the science behind these is probably questionable, so if you are looking for actual science in your science fiction you might have come to the wrong place.

I only deducted a star for the romance, which for whatever reason never felt authentic to me, but once we pushed past the beginning stages of flirtation it wasn’t so bad and all the other things to love about action in space took front and center.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys space operas or heist novels. Thank you to Edelweiss and Angry Robot (Watkins Publishing LTD.) for providing an eARC for me to review.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,890 followers
April 15, 2020
I'm attempting to deal with my horrific reading slump by reading a bunch of stuff I picked up at random, rather than the ~10 books I have on my kobo that I've been hugely looking forward to but don't want to spoil with my crappy inability to read. It's sort of working.

I very much grabbed this at random with no expectations, and enjoyed it. It's a fun space opera that ticks a lot of modern space opera boxes (strong female captain, assorted weird crew including alien and AI), with lots of nice interpersonal stuff and a very diverse cast (heavily slanting female, queer/enby/trans rep) plus some good horrors and a couple of terrific ideas. Not perfect--Callie felt a bit superpowered and considering the scale of the threat against our tiny crew, they seemed to get on top relatively easily--but honestly, it's a book that I read all the way, with enjoyment, mid quarantine, so that says a *lot* for the storytelling and ease of reading.

There's a major plot about enslavement and genocide, as a heads up.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
416 reviews171 followers
September 27, 2020
For a space opera mash-up with Firefly and octopus-like aliens, The Wrong Stars is surprisingly tedious to read. What I thought would be a binge read took me a week and lost out to activities including scrubbing the toilet and getting dried cat snot out of the carpet. Granted, all sorts of crap was going down in my personal life this week, but isn't the point of escapist fiction to, well, help you escape?

Space captain Callie runs a ship called the White Raven with a ragtag crew of misfits. They come across a curious artifact: a 500 year old 'Goldilocks' ship sent out when humans were fleeing the ruined Earth in search of new habitable planets. But the ship has been altered in weird and unfamiliar ways. And there's a human in cryofreeze still on it.

The setup is interesting and the plot moves at a generally decent clip, but I think author Tim Pratt is better at writing zippy one-liners and clever banter than he is at actually writing. The book is so dialogue heavy that what's actually going on can be hard to figure out. Especially since, you know, I started skimming at maybe the 50% mark. The characters are drawn in broad, shallow strokes; the Big Emotional Reveal with the ship's AI feels tinnily orchestrated, and the perilous situations are all too easily resolved.

Even the promising octopus-like alien species is altogether human in thought if not physiology. It annoys me when authors go to the trouble of creating aliens but then fail to consider what alien sentience might actually be like. Octopuses, for example, have neurons in their arms and thus a certain degree of independent thought and action in each, and surely that decentralized intelligence would have profound effects on their culture and perception. Instead, tentacles are used in here to...hold Callie's hand during tense scenes? WTF?

Also, I hated the completely unnecessary instalust romance between the only two relatively available characters (no, one of them is not an octopus alien). If there was one more scene of Callie staring longingly at the zipper on Elena's jumpsuit, I was going to chuck the book across the room. Fortunately, the plot picked up right about then, and who knew I would prefer giant explosions with much loss of life to spending more time with two people who clearly just need to get a room?

The Wrong Stars was the wrong book for me, but I'll round up half a star to account for pandemic malaise and existential gloom on my part.
Profile Image for Victoria.
14 reviews35 followers
April 18, 2018
Interesting story line but it never seemed like the crew was ever in a situation that didn’t end well & they were never surprised or scared about anything. It’s like oh there’s a giant monster coming at me? That’s ok I’ll just shoot it. Bang bang now it’s dead. OKAY.
I would have given this book at least 3 stars if they cut out the romance between the captain & Dr. Oh completely. It was the most god awful cringeworthy crap I have ever read. I almost stopped reading the book altogether after this profound line “it was always nice when people you found hot found you hot back” I rolled my eyes so hard they almost fell out.
Profile Image for Khalid Muhammad Abdul-Mumin.
146 reviews64 followers
December 11, 2022
A very good space opera.

Read: February 23rd, 2022
Edit II: 12112022

Amazing and imaginative plot (reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke, Alastair Reynolds), awe inspiring world-building and prose, good characters and everything else anyone needs in a Space Opera/First Contact/Far Future Sci-Fi blast. The only caveat being the lack of essential 'Hard sci-fi' elements this kind of sub-genre flourishes with, but can certainly be overlooked. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,551 reviews310 followers
May 14, 2020
Outstanding light space-opera. Highly recommended: 4+ stars!
Liz Bourke nailed it:
"Bloody hell, but The Wrong Stars is an amazingly good, extremely fun, very satisfying novel. ...
The Wrong Stars is space opera. It opens with Callie, captain of the White Raven, discov­ering a ship that looks like a derelict. Callie’s a bounty hunter, a salvager, and sometimes a law enforcement officer on a contract basis for one of the major powers in the outer reaches of the solar system. It’s only logical, then, that she and her crew board the dead-looking ship to see what they may find."
Profile Image for Beige .
239 reviews81 followers
March 21, 2019
2.5 stars

I hummed and hawed about this one. It had things I liked and things I didn't, so a middling 2.5 stars is where I ended up.

It's certainly the pulpiest space opera I've read to date. I'm more familiar with this type of story in TV/Movie format. In fact, it shares the same pacing issues with the newest Star Trek: Discovery. Great start, laggy around the middle to later half and the end feels too rushed and overstuffed with action and twists.

Likes: The swashbuckling female captain, the wacky augmented engineering officer, the complicated relationship between the captain and the ship's A.I. and the story of how the alien race came to be called the "the liars"

Dislikes: Other than pacing, my biggest complaint was the insta-love lesbian relationship. I think the author was going for something sweet but it just came off as completely forced and inappropriate. It made me cringe everytime it reared its head. Kind of like that time Madonna and Britney kissed.

Yeah, right there with you J.T.

And this is coming from someone who has read a ton of pulpy UF, enjoys a little romance with her mayhem and embraces relationship diversity: gender, orientation, species, alive, dead? All is fair.

The author is planning for this to be a trilogy, I'm undecided on whether I will continue.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
1,595 reviews
January 7, 2019
I enjoyed this - it was a lighthearted space opera, quite funny at times, with some interesting aliens. The characterization wasn't deep - there was no internal conflict, etc., but it was fun. I especially liked the Liars as an alien race, and Ashok - I'm pretty sure I would totally have his attitude towards tech and enhancements. I'm sure I'll be picking up the next book soon.

“maybe it explodes. No reason to think it will, except for the way a lifetime of consuming fiction makes me associate countdowns with things exploding.”
Profile Image for Lata.
3,509 reviews187 followers
February 4, 2019
Despite having an element I really don't like (instant romance between two main characters), I enjoyed this space opera. It's light, and can be read as just a fun adventure story with several funny moments. Everything about this story is light, from its characterization, its tone, the banter between characters; I enjoyed this book as a well-needed break after several darker stories. As this is the first of three books, there is more for the crew of the White Raven to do, and I really am interested in Lantern and how she fares.
Profile Image for Jess.
273 reviews52 followers
October 3, 2020
I started out with decidedly mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I generally adore Pratt's writing, he writes inclusive characters and has a brain that I'd like to take a stroll in with a cup of tea. On the other hand, it took me almost half the book to connect to this particular book. I hated the insta-love romance: it felt tacked on, it was based on nothing at all but moved from lust to something the MC thinks could become love in a matter of hours, the first roll in the hay magically erases bitter feelings about an ex, and the power imbalance between those two characters (one traumatized, penniless, and utterly dependent upon the other) made a relationship between them feel uncomfortable for this reader.

The characters were medium-two-dimensional, which is okay under some circumstances, but the MC was also kind of an asshole who takes their stuff out on others, which continued to bug me throughout the book. Characters made decisions and came to at least one red herring conclusion that rattled my suspension of disbelief somewhat. But --and it's a sizable "but"-- I'm glad that I didn't abandon it, because I completely stopped caring about those things and couldn't put it down for the entire second half of the book, which was gripping. I'm definitely reading the next books in the trilogy.

Oh, also also? Tons of excellently quippy lines.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,051 reviews101 followers
June 22, 2019
This is a light SF space opera. It has one great idea, but execution is rather mediocre.

The ship White Raven finds a wreck of a (seeding) goldilocks ship, which was sent away over five centuries ago. There is a single survivor is creo-sleep, Elena. She wakes up to inform about the first contact, but she is several centuries late. Or are those the same alients?

Here is a big idea: aliens that contacted Earth are called Liars. Because they lie:

The idea is quite cool, but from then on the story is on downward trend. There is an attempt to insert bi/pan women romance – Elena and Callie (ship’s captain) but both my personal feeling (but can I, a straight male judge it?) and comments of several female readers say it is badly done. The author also shoed in ace/aro person (also quite badly). The desire to run around with guns flaring consumes most characters. Even the big reveals at the end are dumbing down the whole concept of Liars.
Profile Image for Alan.
1,086 reviews106 followers
March 31, 2018
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves...
Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II
That may have been true for Cassius and Brutus, maybe even for ol' Jules too—but not this time. In The Wrong Stars, the fault is out there, among the stars, and Captain Callie (short for Kalea) Machedo of the White Raven, contract security for the Trans-Neptunian Authority, needs to take it on.

The Wrong Stars is a good old new old-fashioned rip-roaring space adventure yarn, the kind they don't write anymore, full of exciting technologies and emotional extremes and exotic extraterrestrial locales. It's got not one but two First Contacts in it, with two very different kinds of alien. It delivers a big dose of the ol' sensawunda, and is suffused throughout with that boundless optimism, the belief that the Universe may be crowded and deadly but human beings will manage to make their way in it just fine, thankyewverymuch, for which the term is Campbellian (John, that is, not Joe).

The Wrong Stars does not pretend to be more than it is: an unfailingly exciting romp through space and—well, space, mostly, although there is some one-way time travel of a sort. It's also "Book One of the Axiom series"—says so right there on the title page. At least it's honest about that, unlike another first-in-a-series I read recently. And Pratt ties off enough loose ends to make The Wrong Stars a complete narrative. I appreciate those qualities.

And it's not actually true that "they" don't write books like this anymore. If you've read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (et seq.), by Becky Chambers, you will recognize not only the backdrop but also the foreground of Tim Pratt's tale—I could easily see the plucky, close-knit and heterogeneous beings from Callie Machedo's White Raven and Ashby Santoso's Wayfarer exchanging toasts in some trans-Neptunian bar (and probably exchanging more as well—both crews are remarkably open-hearted and sex-positive). Like Chambers' series—and like Ryk E. Spoor's Grand Central Arena (et seq.) as well—The Wrong Stars cherry-picks the good parts of "Golden Age" SF while ditching casually unexamined racist, sexist and heteronormative assumptions that no longer even seem remotely plausible, much less desirable as outcomes.

What The Wrong Stars is not, is much like Tim Pratt's earlier work. Pratt acknowledges as much himself, at the end of the book where he talks about "this new-to-me genre" (p.395), but if you're familiar with any of his previous stories, you figured out by the end of the first page that this one's a departure for him.

But for me, at least, The Wrong Stars was the right book at the right time.
510 reviews4 followers
August 13, 2020
Another borderline score, better than a 3, but not quite a 4. Nevertheless, the book engaged me throughout with never a dull moment.

This is a space opera in many senses. A variety of interesting characters, all with foibles and strengths. The high points are the characters and their dialog. Also, finding out their back stories. A little bit of humor. A few plot twists. Keeping us guessing about the motives of some of the antagonists. No major space battles, but plenty of small unit combat.

The White Raven, a privateer in the employ of one solar system power rescue a Goldilocks ship they stumbled across in their missions in the solar system. These ships were sent out on hundreds of years long journeys to seed humans on new planets when Earth thought human life on Earth would end. In the intervening years a race called the Liars aided and tricked the Earthlings and provided technology in return for resources. They also provide fixed wormholes that allowed Earthlings to colonize 29 other systems.

Strange things begin to happen. They discover a ship sized wormhole creator. They rescue one survivor who tells them the rest of her crew were captured on an alien space station. The ship she arrived on is destroyed. Soon after the base station and HQ of the Raven's employer is destroyed along with 50,000 souls. Soon after, the Raven itself comes under attack. They conclude someone wants the wormhole generator destroyed and decide to unravel the mystery, exact justice, and rescue the captured crew.

The crimes appear to have been perpetrated by the pacifist Liars. As the Raven learns more, they become increasing alarmed about what humanity is facing. Needless to say, the white-hats win out in their goals and lay the groundwork for further self driven missions.

This book is a fun read and reminds me of Old Man's War series. I'm looking forward to reading the next two books.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,597 reviews238 followers
January 28, 2019
“Callie floated, feet hooked over a handrail in the observation deck, and looked through the viewport at the broken ship...“
As first lines go, this was pretty good, you know straight away what is going on. Mainly, light entertainment with snarky banter...

“Have I told you lately that I‘m a genius?“
“I‘m not sure. I don‘t usually listen when you talk.“

...and a collection of archetypical characters, some funny aliens, some scary, mysterious aliens, a few pirates, instalust, empty and badly lit space stations and a feeling that the author really likes The Expanse.

The middle of the book suffered from middle-of-the-book-syndrome, aka I was slightly bored, because it did not move along fast enough for my taste for this type of novel. The ending was a lot more fun again, although the author had almost lost me by then.

A fairly entertaining if somewhat shallow space opera, with decent enough world building. My favourite characters were Shall and Lantern. Callie, Elena and Ashok were good, too. The rest were forgettable. A little less cardboard-cutout and more character depth would have been nice.

Anyhow, this would probably make a good movie script. And it opens up this particular universe for some entertaining sequels, while trying to wrap up that scary major story arc...

So, good beginning and ending, a slightly meh-middle... 3.5ish tentacled stars...
Profile Image for Maria.
78 reviews73 followers
December 7, 2019
Exciting plot and interesting worldbuilding. The language was nothing special. Characters and romance were both boring (although queer romance representation is always good), and the dialogue was 90 % sarcasm, which got old quickly.

For the most part a fast moving and exciting read, but other than that, nothing special and not much depth to be found. There was also a second, rushed showdown after the first, main showdown was over, that would have been better as the start of the second book, I think.
Profile Image for Dale Renton.
Author 3 books22 followers
December 10, 2019
The Wrong Stars (Axiom, #1) by Tim Pratt

'The Wrong Stars' by Tim Pratt features a diverse cast of humans, cyborgs, human(ish) amalgams, AIs (built partly from human personnae) and squid-like aliens named "Liars" in recognition of their mendacious nature. In a future where interstellar travel is both enabled and limited by a set of 29 gateways gifted to humanity by the Liars, the crew of the space cruiser 'White Raven', led by Callie (Captain, my Captain), are involved in a series of adventures triggered by the discovery of an ancient spaceship with a single surviving human crew member (Callie's subsequent love interest - Elena). The banter between crew members throughout the book is an entertaining feature.

The early scenes in the book proved a little confusing as a consequence of not understanding the 'nature' of some of the characters but that all sorts itself out as the story unfolds - and it's generally better when you're shown rather than told. Action scenes in the first few chapters were the most exciting as the outcome was in the balance. Later action scenes lacked this edge as it became apparent that the good guys were always going to win. This lack of edge (anti-)climaxed in a confrontation with the leader of the bad guys (no more info to avoid spoiler) which I felt lacked tension.

A word on the love interest: The love scenes didn't work particularly well for me as they lacked intensity and the particular nature of the relationships felt contrived - almost as if the author had made an effort to conform with what is a strong trend in contemporary fiction. My view only.

Overall, a fun read and good enough to interest me in the next volume of the trilogy.
Profile Image for Kaa.
560 reviews51 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
June 20, 2019
DNF @ 10%. Even in the first three chapters of this book, there were quite a few things that were annoying me, and then Allison told me that the rest of the book would be filled with other things I wouldn't like, so I'm not going to bother. The Liars sound interesting, but not enough to make me want to put up with everything else.
Profile Image for Hank.
779 reviews74 followers
September 26, 2020
I need a new goodreads feature. I would like a rating to blink between two different ones, in this case 2 and 4. How could I be so undecided you ask? Here's how....

I find myself comparing this frequently to Linesman In that book the story was quite good, original and I raced through it fast enough to not notice the atrocious writing except afterwards. This book I did not get through fast enough to do the same.

The story in The Wrong Stars is excellent, not exactly original but the way it was put together and my desire to read what would happen next was always high. A cliche rag tag crew that stumbles on an adventure with aliens and rescue and what not. The cliche bits were fine and not overly done and got me caring.

The problem is that the writing is truly terrible, which is a term I don't use lightly since

A. I am not only not a good writer, I am not a writer at all
B. I usually don't recognize bad or good writing, the story is what mostly matters

The sentences did not flow and I had to re-read several to try to make them mean something, the dialog was worse. The novel flow is going along and we stop dead to have a conversation, which is stilted and drawn out and then...... we start the novel flow again. It happened so much, it started to become mesmerizing. The romance sucked (not literally) and the big secret mystery between captain and ship was not really that mysterious.

The Linesman trilogy was passable enough for me to read all three. This stops here.
Profile Image for RG.
3,092 reviews
June 21, 2018
Just a fun space opera cowboy type read. The characters were well developed, the plot was ok, there was decent humour and alot of issues were covered better than most. Diversity being a big overall topic. I just found that the plot was a little slow and pretty straight forward. I also found the writing at stages a little shaky but this is still a good read. Angry robot have been releasing a tonne of books but none have ever gripped me and i cant figure out why.
Profile Image for Lucille.
1,006 reviews199 followers
October 18, 2017
This could have become a favourite but it ended up disappointing me in the end.
Lots of good ideas, good intentions regarding a great diversity of characters, but it wasn't done well in my opinion. I'm really sad because at first it was really good and I was really having a great time for a few chapters.
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews132 followers
January 10, 2019
Solidly entertaining space opera. The characterisation had a bit of a paint-by-the-numbers feel but I was charmed enough to want to continue reading.
Profile Image for Sarah.
832 reviews232 followers
February 19, 2018
It feels like forever since I’ve had so much fun with a book!

Callie and the rest of the crew of The White Raven exist far out on the edge of the solar system, doing salvage runs and acting as the closest thing to a police force. Then on a routine salvage mission, they find a centuries old “Goldilocks ship,” with one of the original inhabitants still in cryo-sleep. When Dr. Elena Oh wakes up, she proclaims that she’s made first contact with an alien species and that the rest of her crew is in need of rescue. Humanity’s already made contact with aliens… but is this an entirely new species? And how did Elena get back to our solar system anyway? As the questions pile up, the crew of The White Raven is set to uncover a centuries long conspiracy.

I love science fiction books with good aliens, and The Wrong Stars 100% delivers. The aliens humanity’s made contact with while Elena’s been gone are called the Liars. Because they lie. About everything. Every single group of Liar’s humanity’s met has spun wildly different stories about everything from the origins of their species to what day of the week it is or what their names are. They’ll never admit they’re lying, even when it’s completely obvious, but will instead say another group of Liars is lying, blame it on translation errors, or just insist that they don’t see anything wrong with the piece of technology that’s just exploded. In short, the Liars are an incredibly original alien culture that also manages to be hilarious.

It also means that it’s impossible to get any straight answers out of them. Do they know anything about what happened with Elena? Who can tell! And you definitely can’t trust any answer they give. And man, does the crew of The White Raven start wanting answers.

The pacing is quite snappy, and the narrative never drags. From the get go, there’s plenty of action and excitement to be had. On the whole, The Wrong Stars is more focused on plot shenanigans than character development, but the cast still managed to be surprisingly memorable. Callie and Elena are the clear leads, and the story switches between their POV sections. However, I think my favorite character might be the ship’s mechanic, Ashok, who’s a post-human obsessed with transforming himself into a cyborg. While the romance subplot between Callie and Elena possibly suffers from the focus on plot and the quick pacing, I never found it bothersome. All in all, I found the cast wholly enjoyable.

Also, there’s so many queer characters! Going in, I knew that there was a f/f romance subplot between Callie and Elena (this was part of why I picked it up), but I didn’t know that Callie was demisexual. There’s also a supporting character who’s ace, which made me so happy, and there’s trans and nonbinary supporting characters as well. I haven’t seen The Wrong Stars popping up on any lists for queer sci-fi, and that’s a shame. If you’re looking for a fun, well written space opera with queer characters, The Wrong Stars is right up there with A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

Anyway, I enjoyed the heck out of The Wrong Stars. It’s a refreshingly fun, hard to put down book. I strongly recommend it, and I can’t wait for a sequel!

Review from The Illustrated Page.
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