Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Publisher: Orbit Books

Publish Date: 19 November 2020

Page Count: 480 pages


I judged Nophek Gloss by its cover (and judged it to be freakin’ cool), so I requested a review copy without paying too much attention to the blurb. Well, what a surprising way to discover one of my new favourite sci-fi novels!

Much more than a coming of age book (and a very different one at that), Nophek Gloss is an emotional and vivid story about self-worth, overcoming trauma, and finding meaning in an overwhelmingly vast universe.

“Strength can rise from any wreckage.”

The opening chapter introduces Caiden, a young mechanic working in a community of farmers who rear livestock under the supervision of slavers. When their entire population of cattle succumbs to a disease, the citizens are rounded up, and the events that follow turn Caiden’s world upside down, inside out, and tear it to shreds. He soon finds himself on a quest for answers and vengeance as he struggles to survive in a strange multiverse filled with both hope and heartache.

There’s so much I want to say about this novel, but I also don’t want to give anything away. Not discussing the plot makes reviewing and recommending a book a little tricky, so I guess I’ll say if you were to put a Becky Chambers novel in a cage and poke it with the pointy end of a stick until it got REALLY pissed off, you might have a vague idea of what to expect from Nophek Gloss. Essa Hansen writes with the epic scope of space opera’s greats, but with the vibrance and diversity that we’ve seen more of in recent years.

Nophek Gloss features a ragtag space crew like many of my favourite SF books, but by no means are they a custom-fit bunch. Their personalities and experiences are as diverse as their physiology, and they work hard to get along. The villains in this story are equally complex, and while they all play a significant role in Caiden’s journey, the focus remains on him finding his new purpose in the world(s) while trying to reconcile his anger and guilt. It is by no means a comfortable journey for the protagonist or reader, but it is ultimately an incredibly satisfying and moving one.

“Own what you hate, and polish the rest of you until that hated part is outshined completely.”

It was such a thrill to discover Hansen’s inventive sci-fi creations alongside Caiden who, due to his captive upbringing, has never even seen the night sky. While this may sound like an obvious storytelling device, it is integral to the plot, and in my opinion, works exceptionally well.

The last thing I’ll say is that while Nophek Gloss features fascinating technology and unique alien species, its focus is not so much on futuristic realism and technical explanations, but more on the unfettered wonder and potential of an ever-expanding multiverse, both the good and the bad.

Fans of novels by Chambers, Scalzi, Szal or Tchaikovsky will love Nophek Gloss, so pre-order it now or get your copy on November 19th! You can also check out my interview with the author!

Many thanks to Orbit and Netgalley for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger warnings: Death of family, death of children, child abuse

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23 thoughts on “Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen

  1. ‘… if you were to put a Becky Chambers novel in a cage and poke it with the pointy end of a stick until it got REALLY pissed off, you might have a vague idea of what to expect from Nophek Gloss’ – Take my money!! Top review Jake, sounds right up my street.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It was such a fantastic surprise of a book! It may not be everyone’s cup of tea as it’s fairly angsty and some sci-fi elements verge on fantastical, but it was the perfect brew for me 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So, you make it sound really compelling and I want to buy this one and read it for myself, but given others have said it was self indulgent, I have to wonder. I might start getting more books out from the library … when it opens up again. But for now, I trust your reviews, because, so far (other than one book we won’t mention) you have steered me towards a number of golden reads. 😀

    Oh, by the way, I haven’t read any of those authors you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d actually never heard of Essa Hansen until people started talking about this book, but when I saw it I knew I was gonna read based off the cover and the title alone. Really enjoyed reading this review and you’ve def solidified my decision to pick this up!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t get the self-indulgent opinion! The book focuses on the main character’s severe trauma from the beginning of the story and his struggle to overcome it. It’s basically a journey through PTSD with a really wild backdrop, and he’s also 14 so it’s a little angsty. I can see why that’s not for everyone, but personally I loved it!

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  6. Well, it looks like I’ve got another book on my TBR. I don’t really consider myself a fan of Chambers, Scalzi, Szal or Tchaikovsky (I’ve read maybe two books between them), but this was a great review, and I trust you!

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  7. I mean, I’m totally guessing 😂 In my mind you prefer books with a splash of realism, or that have some sort of relevance or commentary related to the real world.

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  8. Yep I think that’s fairly accurate! It’s weird though, cos I naturally gravitate towards gritty, dark stuff but then also loved stuff like The Empress of Salt and Fortune, which is basically just a vivid love letter to storytelling. If something is written well I don’t think it matters too much what it contains and I’m usually very open to reading almost anything.

    What would you say you naturally gravitate towards?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Yeah I think readers have to have a spectrum of tastes to keep things interesting and fresh. Same with films, I bounce between horror, kids films and 90s/00s comedy 😅
    I have the same general standards for things like writing style and characters, but I think at my heart I’m a concept guy. When I look at a lot of my favourite books, they have an exciting and unique SFF idea at its core that captures my imagination and sense of wonder. Ideally something I’ve never seen or thought about before. Then hopefully everything else falls into place around it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love picking up booka by their covers only, or rather, picking them up without reading the blurb. You get the best surprises 🙂 Awesome review! Seen this one around a lot and definitely sounds like a don’t miss for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Me too!! Most of the time it’s made it a really special reading experience for me. Although a couple of times it has also led me astray.
    I do think you’d enjoy this one – it’s a unique sci fi setting but most of the focus is on Caiden’s emotional growth.

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