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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