Samantha's Reviews > An Unkindness of Ghosts

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
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In a way this is a novel about trauma. The main characters have all been victimized, abused, and terrorized by a totalitarian militaristic regime. The way that plays out in their trust issues, survival techniques, and assumptions about other people is so realistically rendered that I longed to be able to take the characters home and take care of them myself for a while.

It was easy to see why Aster, the main character, and Theo, the upper-decker Surgeon, were drawn to one another--their shared love of learning and knowledge, their understanding of each other's identity issues, the desire each had to be helpful and make a positive difference. Even though it wouldn't seem on the surface like they would have anything in common, they were very alike under their circumstance and skin.

I had more trouble understanding what bound Aster in friendship with Giselle. All their happy moments seem to have been when they were kids together, and I couldn't understand why they were drawn to each other in the here and now. While Giselle's erratic behavior definitely gibes with how a severely traumatized person might act, I could have used something to hold onto that gave me reason to hope improvement of some sort was possible for her. As it was, she seemed like a monkey wrench that was thrown back into the story whenever Aster's life was going too smoothly for a moment and a conflict was needed. With little connection between them now, I wondered if childhood friendship was sufficient to keep Aster engaged with Giselle, especially since she herself was generally emotionally distant.

The plot felt disjointed. Sometimes I thought this was a conscious choice, an artistic representation of how these experiences might have felt from inside the character's minds, representing their feeling of lack of control and agency. Other times, I thought it might just be poor structure and pacing. I was never willing to put the book down and walk away, but the plot and characters didn't integrate well, and events often felt like they came out of left field because of that.

The bad guys were definitely bad, but no motivation for their hatred is really explored, so I'm left wondering, of all the systems that might have been tried to maintain order on a space vessel, why people advanced in scientific understanding would build something so racially segregated, so disparate in terms of the have-and-have-nots, in which the monarchy rules by terror alone. Religion was thrown out there as an explanation briefly, but not explored briefly enough for me to feel convinced. Why do we have plantation life in space?

So, while the portrayals of the world were fully realized, sometimes horrifying and harrowingly well, I never understood why this was the world.

The ending was one of those left field moments for me as well, moving very quickly from general theoretical exploration of ideas to action without showing me the in the story how the necessary skills and information were acquired. The ending had its beauties, but also was unsatisfyingly unresolved, leaving me feeling like the story ended just when it had gotten interesting.

Aster was a truly interesting main character with a unique voice and worldview and she is why I kept reading. The strengths of this story are strong enough that I would still recommend reading it, even though there are also weaknesses.

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Reading Progress

August 1, 2019 – Started Reading
August 1, 2019 – Shelved
August 10, 2019 – Finished Reading

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