I’ve been meaning to read this one for awhile and I ended up really liking it. Koyanagi builds a complex and fascinating world, and the main character, Alanna, is wonderful. It’s also inclusive–Alanna is described as Black, has a chronic illness, and is gay, and some other spoilery stuff. I’m not an authority on any of those identities, but they seemed to be well handled. This is a nice science fantasy kind of book, and I’m happy to recommend it.
And if you haven't picked this up because Hard SF isn't your thing, that bears reconsidering.
Alana Quick loves working on spaceships - and she's good at it. She can feel the hurts of the machinery, tune it up, make it run smoother, salve its pains. But stuck planetside working with her aunt in a world where independent space flight isn't bringing as many customers their way and the bills are piling up. So when someone comes looking for her sister, Nova, Alana sees an opportunity and stows away.
Space is everything she dreamed it would be - and also a number of things she never imagined, good and bad. But the biggest bad is in unravelling the desires of an enormous corporation which has affected every aspect of their universe, and which will stop at nothing to find Nova.
Alana is an interesting main character, unusual in almost every aspect. She's an older woman, in her 30s, who works as an engineer. She's also a black lesbian with a chronic pain disorder, who has to take meds regularly to manage the pain. Had a friend, when I was talking about this book, say "sounds like someone's pushing an agenda."
But... no. No, the main character happens to be all of those things, and all of those things define her, but there's nothing of crusading and pushing-in-your-faceness unless you're the sort of person who interprets "I can't pretend that this thing doesn't exist" as "this thing is being shoved in my face and flaunted all over." And if that's who you are, the problem is not with the book.
So, I love the main character, who's a bit impulsive and in her attempts to do what she feels she should, can sometimes make real problems for other people. Problems she then needs to deal with.
I wish I could say I love this book and recommend it unabashedly. But unfortunately, this is a first book, and comes with many of the problems that a new author can have. The plot isn't really solid, and meanders a good deal, especially in the first half. There's also a LOT of overwriting early on, and I had to force through some sections because there was enough good there that I wanted to get to the next scene and see if it improves. At some point, the book shifts gears almost entirely into a romance, hangs out there for a while, and then shifts back. It feels a little poorly integrated, and I wish it didn't feel like everything else got put on hold for that subplot.
But by the final third or so, I felt like the book had found its groove and gave us a solid if somewhat anticlimactic ending because of the previously mentioned looseness of the early narrative. Most of the characters felt sort of poorly described - I still don't get what was up with the other engineer, for instance - but as I said, I liked the main character enough to let that go.
I will probably be giving the second book a try if/when it comes out. There was enough good in this to make me feel like the greater experience of a sophomore writer could really put something strong together.
Yes to the healthy lesbian relationships, yes to the polyamory, yes to the wolf-in-human skin, yes to the fact that this book hit on my interests in more than the 'Alana Quick loves ships more than humans most times' way.
I read mixed reviews, and I believe it was the pacing that people had a problem with. To be honest, I can see this: it isn't exactly quick moving all the time. It takes a couple detours to explore background and characters, but I also loved that. I can, however, concede it dragged a bit in one or two scenes, but it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of this novel.
I though I'd like Alana best, because she keeps waxing poetic about ships, but it turns out my favorite is Ovie Porter, another sky surgeon - read engineer/mechanic - who feels as if he's a wolf in a man's skin. There is a lot of tension, especially when a glimpse of his childhood is shown, but he was incredibly endearing to me.
Beyond this, there were plot twists at the end that I simply didn't see coming. Two major ones, concerning two members of the Tangled Axon's crew. One also involves the villains, Transliminal Solutions, a corporation that comes from, well, not the universe that Alana lives in. And the thing is that if you read the back of this book, there's so, so much that's left out; this book is dense, full of philosophy, religion, all without being obnoxiously pushy about it. Mostly because it's not necessarily religion the way that most people think about it these days, but it was more a spiritual religiosity. It goes beyond characters, beyond plot, and becomes meaningful in the way it expands definitions of normal, and tries to make the reader see that the only normal is being true to yourself.
And while there are horrifying things that happen, this book is about hope, and determination, and finding yourself. It was a gorgeous love song.
I could cry, though, because I can't find any evidence of a sequel, and the cover shows 'a Tangled Axon novel.' It was only published December 2013, though, so hopefully this upcoming December will bring another one. *crosses fingers*