Friday, May 22, 2020
First sentence: In thirty years, Dr. Naomi Lovelace has never given an interview. Whenever I asked her to tell me what happened up there, Naomi would say no one who has been to space could ever describe it to someone who hasn’t.
Premise/plot: Naomi Lovelace is finally, finally telling her story: a story spanning four or five decades. Readers get their first hint of what is coming in this description, "Dr. Naomi Lovelace has been many things over the years. Scientist. Criminal. Villain. Hero. Famous. Infamous. Who would she have been, if she’d never gone? In the home clips I watched of her before she left Earth, Naomi was still quiet, but a smile often hovered at the edges of her lips, as if she held a secret she wished she could share. In one clip, taken the year before she left Earth, she’d opened her Christmas presents with the careful, considered way she did everything. A scientist through and through."
Naomi is one of five women who steal a space ship and head off to the planet Cavendish, a planet that perhaps may be humanity's greatest chance for survival after the Earth dies due to climate change and ill treatment at the hands of men. The other women are Dr. Valerie Black (whom readers will come to know a great deal about as she's the captain and mastermind), Oksana Lebedeva, lead engineer, Jerrie Hixon, their lead pilot and mathematician, Irene Hart, their doctor. (Naomi is a botanist.)
The story unfolds in snippets. It is not told chronologically. There are flashbacks, if you will, to her narrative. These flashbacks give hints to the world that Lam has created, and reveal some depth to a few of the characters--notably Valerie and Naomi. These two women are tightly connected. Naomi was adopted by Valerie after her own parents died. But just because Valerie raised Naomi for many years doesn't mean their relationship isn't strained and full of tension. There is HISTORY which leads you to question why Naomi would let herself be convinced that this was a good idea and mankind's only hope.
My thoughts: I am conflicted. On the one hand, I read it in two--possibly three days. It was an action-packed read that kept me wanting more, more, more. On the other hand, once I finished and began reflecting on it, it left me with a meh. On the one hand, I thought there were possibly two characters that were mostly fully fleshed out and developed. But there were so many more characters that we simply never got a chance to actually know. Who were they? Why did they want to leave earth? Why did they team up with Valerie? What were their inner ambitions? What were their hopes and dreams? Did they have regrets? On the other hand, did we really get to know any of the characters? Could the case be made that Naomi is an unreliable narrator? That her retelling of the events is biased and selective? Is she trustworthy? So best case scenario, we get two characters that we know...worst case scenario...none. On the one hand, it was interesting to see Lam's dystopia play out. It's a dystopia where women have been silenced and displaced--taken away from the workplace, lacking almost any opportunity for a successful career and making a meaningful impact on society...and a dystopia where the full effects of climate change are playing themselves out in the extreme. And because earth is dying, because humanity is so desperate, ethics have evaporated....even more than you might expect. Dystopias in and of themselves interest me...even if I don't necessarily buy into the preachy agendas. (You don't have to be able to envision our future as that future in order to appreciate the genre.)
On the one hand, I felt disappointed that readers never really get to see Cavendish and the colonization process. What we're given is two sentences at the end of the novel. I felt it was too little if you actually wanted a science fiction novel with colony ships and the potential of a brand new world and all its dangers. On the other hand, I don't really think Naomi would have/could have chosen differently and stayed true to her character. So the ending both worked and didn't work for me.
I definitely felt the ending was a bit rushed. That being said, I'm not sure the pacing could have endured another ten or fifteen years.
© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews