I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
The fateful meeting between the owner of a tramp star-freighter that flies the Union planets under false papers and fake names and a proud but junior member of a powerful starship-owning family leads to a record-breaking race to Downbelow Station--and a terrifying showdown at a deadly destination off the cosmic charts.
Sandor Kreja is a survivor. He managed to escape the massacre of his family and has run the family spaceship, first with his brother, then without, for a very long time. The ship’s control system speaks in his brother’s voice, a comforting reminder of the loving connections he used to have. He has lived at the edge of the law and at the margins of society for his entire adult life and is longing to just have a chance to achieve a normal life.
Contrast this with Allison Reilly, who comes from an enormous family who run the ship Dublin Again. Allison knows that her family always has her back—the downside of this is that everyone knows each other’s business and feels no compunctions about expressing opinions about it. Add to that the limited number of meaningful positions available to the young merchanters on the ship—just like Generation Xers who follow the Baby Boom generation, they are ready to move on to bigger and better things, but the previous generation isn’t going anywhere.
Opposites attract, they say. It’s inevitable that when these two meet, there are fireworks. A casual hook-up becomes much more when Sandor recklessly follows Dublin Again to their next port of call, despite his lack of legal paperwork. Although not a traditional romance, there is a thread of their relationship running through the work, drawing the reader along to see if it will all work out. Can the lonely captain accept people back into his life again? Can the crew members of Dublin Again exorcise the ghosts of Sandor’s family from his ship? Can people from such divergent backgrounds trust each other?
I was struck by the hungry loneliness of the young man, alone in space on a ship built for a family. As part of a university project, my sister once attended a substance abuse support group. I remember how appalled she was when she realized that each of these people had absolutely no loving connection in the world. Their families had either given up on them or were part of their problems. Their only friends were other addicts. They had no one to encourage them, help them, or give them any kind of boost. It’s amazing, really, that any of them ever manage to escape those circumstances, and yet some do. I felt like Sandor was up against the same kinds of obstacles—no family, no friends, no trust, no papers, yet he was clawing his way towards respectability.
I’ve never known real loneliness, for which I am thankful. I hope that books like this one are as close as I ever get.