An intriguing, imaginative debut sci-fi novella
One woman will travel to the stars and beyond to save her beloved…
Gene-edited human clans have scattered throughout the galaxy, adapting themselves to environments as severe as the desert and the sea. Atuale, the daughter of a Sea-Clan lord, sparked a war by choosing her land-dwelling love and rejecting her place among her people. Now her husband and his clan are dying of an incurable plague, and Atuale’s sole hope for finding a cure is to travel off-planet. The one person she can turn to for help is the black-market mercenary known as the World Witch — and Atuale’s former lover. Time, politics, bureaucracy, and her own conflicted desires stand between Atuale and the hope for her adopted clan.
This is an intriguing debut sci-fi novella, following Atuale as she sets out desperately on a perilous journey to save her people. Well-paced, well-written, and imaginative. I enjoyed this.
It’s a bit tricky to review this in any particular detail without spoiling the story. It’s a briskly-paced, slim novella, but one that manages to do quite a lot. Ogden introduces plenty of interesting and imaginative twists on some popular space opera — gene-editing, for example, but also interstellar travel and alien races.
Atuale, the daughter of one of her planet’s faction leaders, left the seas for a life on land. She’s made a life for herself, found love, and not looked back. Now, however, her people are being ravaged by a plague, and she must head back into the water to get help. Teaming up with the “World-Witch”, someone Atuale was very close to before she left her original life, she ventures out into space to find someone with the ability to manufacture a cure. On the journey, she reconnects with Yanja, and is forced to examine her choices. As their quest unfolds, she is also forced to examine what she wants — now and in the future. Can you go home? the novella asks, in a way. And how much are you willing to sacrifice for love, and your people?
While briskly-paced, the novella is not especially action-packed. Not surprising, given the plot, nor is this a problem. The author gives us glimpses of the worlds, people, and places in this universe, as well as the “structure” of the civilizations and how they interact. We’re introduced to different cultures, a future where humanity has ventured out into the stars and employed gene-editing to adapt to new climes and planets. It would be interesting to read more in this setting, to explore a bit more the various people and factions with whom we come into brief contact.
I liked that Ogden doesn’t delve too much into the “science” side of the sci-fi. We’re not given long explanations of this or that technology, which means we can just get on with the story. (Something I always appreciate in sci-fi novels/novellas.) We’re dropped into this universe, and the story pulls us through. What details we need are either given briefly, or we can fill out the details how we want. Despite the spare descriptions, there’s nevertheless quite a rich world, and the societies are well-realized on the page.
If you’re looking for a good, short read, then I would certainly recommend you pop this on your TBR pile. I’m also really looking forward to what Ogden writes next. I hope there will be another book or two in this setting in the future. Recommended.