Goodbye to the Sun by Jonathan Nevair

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Publisher: Shadow Spark Publishing

Publish Date: 18 May 2021

Page Count: 307 pages

Goodbye to the Sun by Jonathan Nevair has been on my radar since way back in 2020, so I was very happy to finally read it! With Nevair’s debut novel described as a queer, character-driven sci-fi story inspired by a Greek tragedy, there was no chance I would miss it. Plus, rave reviews have been rolling in – you can check out some blog posts from the recent Storytellers on Tour event here.

In a far future and a galaxy not so far away, humans have colonised the Sagittarius Arm. Ambassador Keen Draden visits the desert planet Kol 2 to lead energy trade negotiations on behalf of the Council. But instead of the welcoming party and diplomatic flattery that he was expecting, Draden is abducted by Razor, a native of Kol 2 and member of the Mote resistance against their Targitian oppressors.

When Razor’s hostage plan is gunned down, the two vastly different characters are forced to work together to achieve their respective goals; for Razor, to raise an army to defend her culture and people, and for Draden, to complete a mysterious task on the distant planet Heroon. Both are forced to confront their past choices in order to create a future they believe in. 

“I’m from an arid land of extremes. My world is either dry or wet. There is no damp. My culture is either alive or dead”

My absolute favourite thing about this book is the captivating setting of Kol 2. The landscape, the politics, and even the weather are fascinating: rather than stormy seas, Kol 2 features vast, blue sand deserts that are ravaged by the Wind Tide, a wave-like cyclical storm that can be deadly to Kol 2’s inhabitants. As well as providing stunning imagery set against Kol 2’s rose-tinted sky, this becomes even more intriguing as you learn about Kol 2’s history and the energy economy that dictates political power across the Arm.

“From an expanse of dunes, I learned to speak arid words”

The story alternates between Razor and Draden’s perspectives and is written in first and third person respectively. This is really effective as it frames Razor as the narrator, which ties in nicely with the plot and its basis in classical tragedy. It also provides insight into sometimes difficult to like characters from a second character’s perspective (I went from disliking Keen to quite liking him and then back several times). 

Nevair states that Goodbye to the Sun is loosely based on Sophocles’ Antigone and that while familiarity with the play is not required, it could lead you to some tasty easter eggs. I’m only familiar with Antigone from an opera I saw years ago, and–as is the case with most operas I’ve seen–I didn’t follow much of the story other than something to do with a soldier’s burial rights. Being that he is a Professor of Art History, I’m more than happy to take Nevair’s word for it. I will say that he does an excellent job of creating the sense of foreboding and impending disaster that tragedies evoke, and the ending was truly epic.

Goodbye to the Sun’s focus on strained family dynamics, abstract theology, journeys of personal discovery, and tense politics centred on natural resources reminded me a little of Dune and Hyperion. However, it’s a unique sci-fi reading experience that I think you can only get from the likes of an independent publisher like Shadow Spark

I’m excited to see what Nevair does next in the Wind Tide trilogy, which will be composed of three standalone stories set in the same universe. The second book Jati’s Wager is a heist story inspired by the Trojan War and will be published later this month. 

Many thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!

Trigger warnings: Addiction/alcoholism, death of family, PTSD/trauma, torture

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