Disclaimer: This is a review, and as such will contain opinions, spoilers and (often) general shit talking. (If you talk about what you don’t like about a work, you learn a lot. When you think through a work with the stakes presented to you by the creator, by the context of the work, you learn a lot. I review things, not because I love to dislike things, but because dislike contains rich and vital information for the process of experiencing something, but I cannot access it without interrogating it.) So, if you don’t want to have this thing spoiled for you, or don’t know how to behave when a person on the internet, that you don’t know, has opinions that don’t line up with yours, this review is not for you. It’s also not for the author/creator of the work. Please and thank you.

The start was painfully slow and it took me a really long time to understand why I should care about the characters.

It was touch and go in the beginning, I kept thinking I was going to stop but I also kept going back to it – after going away and reading something else before coming back.

Once I got over the 30% hump I decided I’d just stick it out.

And I’m glad I did. Even though it was so slow, it was an interesting take on AI and how humanity would adapt to it.

The cultural elements proved to be intriguing.

It’s the first sci-fi book I’ve ever read with a woman that’s also a devout Muslim as the main character.

Katmer Al Shei, the chief engineer and co-owner of the spaceship Pasadena, who essentially acts as the captain, is an ardent follower of the Islamic faith.

Both she and her cousin, Resit, the ship’s legal counsel, wear head coverings known as kijabs (what we call hijabs). Al Shai covers her mouth, while Resit does not as she believes that a lawyer who conceals her face would not be trusted.

They’re both devout practitioners, offering prayers several times each day and adhering to as many religious regulations as possible while voyaging in space.

In this future, Muslims are blamed for the Slow Burn, wrongly so, but it gave their faith some interesting characteristics that make it distinctly different than modern practise.

As a result of the Slow Burn, they dispersed across the settled universe, along with other religious and cultural factions, and still endure significant hostility

And the religious and cultural aspects in the book aren’t dramatised or intended to convey any moral lessons, it’s simply an exploration of how history affects the present.

Did I enjoy it?

Things started to pick up around the middle and the detailed descriptions of the technology and the characters moving through a space-faring world was very interesting.

I did find that a lot of the side characters I could take or leave, even when they were important to the plot.

Al Shei navigating her family politics and The Fool straddling that gap between humanity and artificial intelligence was the most enjoyable part and I would happily have read a story that was mainly focused on them alone.

This is absolutely more on the cerebral side of sci-fi.

It’s well written and the whole story is thought out and very developed, reminiscent of Star Trek.

Not a book I’d recommend for just anyone, but if you can take a super slow pace and enjoy the nitty-gritty of life in space, you might enjoy it.

The ending was very satisfying even though the path to it was heartbreaking.

As for enjoying it, let me put it this way: I’m glad I read it, it taught me a lot, but I probably won’t read it again.

Rapid-fire round:

  • Did the book meet your expectations? It was slower than I expected
  • Who was your favourite character in the book and why? Al Shei, it was a very good representation of a Muslim woman as the protagonist without making her tropey.
  • Who was your least favourite character in the book and why? n/a
  • Did you relate to any of the characters? n/a
  • What themes or messages did you take away from the book? I appreciated that there was a way forward for Al Shei even with her grief.
  • Was there anything in the book that surprised you or that you didn’t expect? The slow integration approach of AI was really interesting.
  • What did you think of the ending of the book? Sad, but satisfying.
  • What do you think the author’s intention was with the book? What message or theme do you think they were trying to convey? It was an interesting exploration of the different ways sentient AI might exist in the world.
  • Which part of the book did you find most memorable? The history of Islam as it went after the fast burn.
  • Did you find any aspects of the book confusing or unclear? No.
  • Were there any moments in the book that made you emotional or had a strong impact on you? Dobbs reaching out to Al Shei in the end and them having a conversation.

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