Ishmael Wang never thought he would sign up with the crew of a solar clipper, traveling the stars as part of a merchant collective. But when his mother unexpectedly dies, leaving him with barely enough money to pay next month’s rent, he finds himself without any other choice. Fortunately, the starfaring life suits him quite well–surprisingly well.
I picked up this novel because it appeared in the “customer’s also bought” section of my own novel, Genesis Earth. It was a fun read, though to be honest I put it down for almost seven or eight months before finishing it. The reasons for that should be clear by the end of this post.
Don’t get me wrong; there are things that I liked a lot about this book. The beginning set up is excellent–I really felt drawn into the story, and felt for the challenges that Ishmael was facing. As he started to make friends and explore his new world, the wish fulfillment factor became a major draw. I mean, who wouldn’t want to sign up with the crew of a solar clipper and travel across the stars?
But somewhere in the middle, the book started to lose steam. Ishmael’s internal conflicts with the death of his Mom faded into the background until they completely disappeared. Everything that he set out to accomplish, he did so successfully after the first or second try. The story took on a sort of video game quality, where the main focus was leveling up: from quarter-share to half-share, from this test to that test, etc. Even some of the aspects of the world-building became mundane, with mushroom-growing asteroids and space station flea markets becoming just another way to make a profit.
While there were aspects of the trading game that I liked, the lack of any real conflict made me lost interest in the story. The beginning is very strong, and the middle, though weaker, is still okay, but the ending just sort of fizzled without a real climax. If you’re only reading for wish-fulfillment, that probably isn’t a problem, but if you want something else, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.