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An Unkindness of Ghosts

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A breathtaking science fiction debut from a worthy successor to Octavia Butler.

$15.95 $11.96

What people are saying…

“What Solomon achieves with this debut — the sharpness, the depth, the precision — puts me in mind of a syringe full of stars. I want to say about this book, its only imperfection is that it ended. But that might give the wrong impression: that it is a happy book, a book that makes a body feel good. It is not a happy book. I love it like I love food, I love it for what it did to me, I love it for having made me feel stronger and more sure in a nightmare world, but it is not a happy book. It is an antidote to poison. It is inoculation against pervasive, enduring disease. Like a vaccine, it is briefly painful, leaves a lingering soreness, but armors you from the inside out.”
NPR

“This striking debut novel, set aboard a generation ship where white supremacists enslave black laborers, combines sharp allegory with poetic metaphor. Aster Grey, a literal-minded medic, hopes to undermine the ruling Sovereignty with the help of notes left by her mother, but decoding them is an almost impossible challenge. Solomon addresses numerous daunting topics with incision and insight in this stunning achievement.”
Publisher’s Weekly, Best Book of the Year in Science Fiction/Fantasy

“Harrowing and beautiful, this is SF at its best: showing the possible future but warning of the danger of bringing old prejudices and cruelties to that new world. While a story about enslaved people in space could be a one-note polemic, the fully rounded characters bring nuance and genuine pathos to this amazing debut.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

“Solomon debuts with a raw distillation of slavery, feudalism, prison, and religion that kicks like rotgut moonshine . . . Stunning.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Infused with the spirit of Octavia Butler and loaded with meaning for the present day, An Unkindness of Ghosts will appeal to a wide variety of readers. Solomon’s impassioned, speculative, literary book is sorely needed on library shelves.”
Booklist

“The HSS Matilda is a well-crafted world, and . . . the diversity of the people who inhabit it—their various sexual and gender identities, physical abilities, and psychological burdens—is refreshingly visible and vital even as they face brutal discrimination for their differences. An entertaining novel that does not neglect the vitality of its story while probing society’s assumptions.”
Kirkus Reviews

“With An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon inarguably shows themselves to be a literary child of genre leader Octavia E. Butler . . . Suffused with the past, the present, and the future of human experiences in its events, An Unkindness of Ghosts launches the career of a brilliantly gifted and important new writer in science fiction.”
Foreword Reviews, starred review

“Here is a novel that puts non-binary and multiracial identities at the forefront of a violent future we may all too easily recognize today . . . Solomon’s fascinating and deeply realized novel joins the imaginative ranks of Octavia Butler and Nalo Hopkinson, each of whom carved out unique places in the largely white male world of sci-fi as black women writers. Solomon, who is non-binary, enters the world of sci-fi with their own revolutionary debut, which should appeal to avid and first-time sci-fi readers alike.”
Literary Hub

“In Rivers Solomon’s highly imaginative sci-fi novel An Unkindness of Ghosts, eccentric Aster was born into slavery on — and is trying to escape from — a brutally segregated spaceship that for generations has been trying to escort the last humans from a dying planet to a Promised Land. When she discovers clues about the circumstances of her mother’s death, she also comes closer to disturbing truths about the ship and its journey.”
Buzzfeed, Included in 28 Exciting New Books You Need to Read This Fall

“Slavery, racial segregation, and resistance, all set in outer space.”
Nylon, Included in Fall Bookseller Recommendations

“The HSS Matilda is a generation ship organized much like the antebellum South. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, sharecropper Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.”
Publishers Weekly

“This book thoughtfully explores race, gender, and much more, while delivering a story that you won’t be able to put down.”
Bustle

“In this debut, Rivers Solomon transports readers to a spaceship bound for a new world but very much trapped in the past. When the Earth began to die, humans decided to flee. It’s been over 300 years since the original group boarded the HSS Matilda, and in that time a white-supremacist cult known as the Sovereignty has seized power. Aster Grey was born on the ship and into slavery, but a new discovery leads her to believe that she might be able to break free.”
Bookish

“Solomon’s dystopian fantasy stars quietly rebellious Aster, whose family has lived for generations in the hold of the creaky HSS Matilda, putatively carrying the last of humanity to a Promised Land.”
Library Journal, Debut Novels Spotlight

“Rivers Solomon is a bold new voice in speculative fiction. This startling debut delves into issues of class, race and gender on a futuristic spaceship whose society mimics the antebellum American South . . . Though shaped like the past transported into the future, Solomon’s narrative seethes with underpinnings of the present carried to the extreme, a police state where women have lost reproductive rights and people of color face servitude and constant brutality. Complex and prophetic, An Unkindness of Ghosts will have readers cheering Aster as she fights for her freedom.”
Shelf Awareness for Readers

“A powerful story . . . An Unkindness of Ghosts is the novel every queer geek of color (and ally) has been waiting for.”
Black Girl Nerds

“Solomon’s exploration of a futuristic yet all too familiarly repressive society is highly recommended for anyone interested in the ever-growing field of SF which is invested in engaging with race, gender, and sexuality as an integral part of any vision of the future.”
IndiePicks Magazine

“A debut work of speculative fiction features a spaceship with a white supremacist cult at the helm, making a generations-long trip to a new world via the labor of a group of enslaved black people living belowdeck.”
The Millions

“Through this debut, Solomon proves themself a bold and unapologetic bringer of truth and knowledge, a forbearer of wondrous new possibilities in speculative black fiction. . .. If I need to say it plainly, I will do so now: buy this book. Let it fill you with its vengeful ghosts and hollowed out living humans. Let it hurt you and try to break you and then, when you are spent, let it lift you up and carry you forward. Let it guide you home.”
Women Write About Comics

“This hard sci-fi novel that parallels our history in post-Civil War America, but is set aboard a spaceship. The Earth can no longer support life, and survivors fled aboard a spaceship. That ship, the Matilda, is now a colony, and segregation is a way of life. Anyone with dark skin is a laborer, while those with light skin are upper class. From what I’ve heard about this book, it’s hard to read, but I think it’s an important story that needs to be told.”
SyFy Wire

“The sci-fi debut by Rivers Solomon takes place aboard a spaceship named Matilda, and features a teased and taunted main character named Aster, described as ‘odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn,’ who is on a mission to discover the potential connection between the deaths of her mother and the Matilda‘s potentate.”
Bay Area Reporter

“Ghosts are ‘the past refusing to be forgot,’ says a character in this assured science-fiction debut. That’s certainly the case aboard the HSS Matilda, a massive spacecraft arranged along the cruel racial divides of pre-Civil War America.”
Toronto Star

“Rivers Solomon pulls you through a difficult journey that is shockingly real, while being utterly engaging as science fiction . . . It’s refreshing to read a new writer who can manipulate such well known motifs, while churning out a story that still instigates a contemporary discourse, one that dares to remind the reader that the past doesn’t always stay buried.”
Geeks OUT

“Fans of Octavia Butler and China Miéville—both socially aware and critical science fiction writers—will adore this debut, as will any reader eager for a blending of genres and story.”
Read It Forward, Included in Favorite Reads of 2017

“I am so thrilled about An Unkindness of Ghosts, because Aster is the powerful sci-fi lady that I’ve been waiting for . . . An Unkindness of Ghosts is a science fiction book that deserves to be on ‘must read’ lists for feminism in sci-fi.”
Hedgehog Book Reviews

“Hands down one of the best science fiction novels I’ve read.”
The Illustrated Page

An Unkindness of Ghosts absolutely blew me away . . . A must read on so many different levels and needs to be on your reading list.”
Utopia State of Mind

“Incredible . . . It is what I wish every book could be: an exploration of the best and worst parts of society in a literary setting.”
Red Hen Book Shop’s Talk & Peck

“Sci-Fi worthy of Octavia Butler . . . An Unkindness of Ghosts is a fascinating study of our own society and an exciting new work of science fiction. Solomon has created an intense, brutal world within the walls of the Matilda.”
Mom Read It

“Immediately immersive and sophisticated . . . This is a phenomenal piece of work.”
—Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series

An Unkindness of Ghosts marks the debut of a wildly talented writer. Rivers Solomon has put together a heady science-fiction novel that speaks directly to some of the most pressing political and social concerns of the modern day. And yet for all that it remains deeply humane, and it’s even quite funny at times. This is a book you’ll want to read now so you can tell your friends you read it first.”
—Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling

“Welcome to the Tarlands aboard the space vessel HSS Matilda—home of the poor and rejected—and the setting of Rivers Solomon’s powerful debut novel. Imaginative in the vein of Colson Whitehead, Samuel R. Delany, and Octavia E. Butler, this novel explores the struggles of slum dwellers aboard a spacecraft sadly reminiscent of our own world: rife with poverty, caste, and discrimination as told through the Looking Glass. With outstanding world-building and an unforgettable protagonist in Aster, An Unkindness of Ghosts is a notable debut by an author whose work I look forward to reading for years to come.”
—Tananarive Due, author of The Living Blood and Ghost Summer


Description

Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remains of her world.

Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot—if she’s willing to sow the seeds of civil war.

Read an interview with Rivers Solomon and an excerpt of An Unkindness of Ghosts at The Rumpus.

An Unkindness of Ghosts included on The Rumpus‘s list of anticipated forthcoming releases.

Included in Book Riot’s 6 Small Press Books You’ll Want to Read in September; the New Release Roundup on “All The Books” podcast; and Liberty Hardy’s New Books! Megalist.

Included in Chicago Review of Books15 Must-Read Books This October and Astoria Bookshop’s New Releases, New & Noteworthy Fiction.

Included in October Diverse Books Highlights on Bogi Reads the World.

Included in Living Out Long Island’s Fall Reads and Baltimore OUT Loud’s Fall for a Good Read.

Read interviews with Rivers Solomon at The Qwillery, on the Paul Semel Blog, on The Illustrated Page, and at Shelf Awareness for Readers.

Read Rivers Solomon’s guest essay on Powell’s Blog.

An Unkindness of Ghosts included in Powell’s Featured Daily Dose Review.


Extras


Book Details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Published: 10/3/17
  • IBSN: 9781617755880
  • e-IBSN: 9781617755996

Author

RIVERS SOLOMON graduated from Stanford University with a degree in comparative studies in race and ethnicity and holds an MFA in fiction writing from the Michener Center for Writers. Though originally from the United States, they currently live in Cambridge, England, with their family. An Unkindness of Ghosts is their debut novel.

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