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An Unkindness of Ghosts (Hardcover)

An Unkindness of Ghosts By Rivers Solomon Cover Image
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A breathtaking science fiction debut from a worthy successor to Octavia Butler.

—One of Esquire magazine’s 50 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time

“Solomon debuts with a raw distillation of slavery, feudalism, prison, and religion that kicks like rotgut moonshine . . . Stunning.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remains of her world.

Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot—if she’s willing to sow the seeds of civil war.

About the Author

RIVERS SOLOMON graduated from Stanford University with a degree in comparative studies in race and ethnicity and holds an MFA in fiction writing from the Michener Center for Writers. Though originally from the United States, they currently live in London, England. An Unkindness of Ghosts is their debut novel.

Praise For…

What Solomon achieves with this debut—the sharpness, the depth, the precision—puts me in mind of a syringe full of stars. I want to say about this book, its only imperfection is that it ended. But that might give the wrong impression: that it is a happy book, a book that makes a body feel good. It is not a happy book. I love it like I love food, I love it for what it did to me, I love it for having made me feel stronger and more sure in a nightmare world, but it is not a happy book. It is an antidote to poison. It is inoculation against pervasive, enduring disease. Like a vaccine, it is briefly painful, leaves a lingering soreness, but armors you from the inside out.


In Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts, a generation starship has left the ruined Earth behind: the senior crew are all white supremacists, while dark-skinned people are kept below decks as slave labor. In this unflinching debut Solomon invites comparisons with Octavia Butler.

— The Guardian (UK), Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Book of the Year, 2017

The vivid, unusual, stirring characters make it a piquant and often enjoyable read despite the pointed bleakness of the setting . . . It’s structurally and thematically daring and manages to include a little bit of hope while leveling a devastating critique at racism and fascism.
— Los Angeles Times, recommended by Malka Older

My recommendation for today is to check out An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, which made all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy ‘best’ lists of last year. It’s about a stratified society aboard a spacecraft, and it is intensely thought-provoking.

— LeVar Burton Reads

This striking debut novel, set aboard a generation ship where white supremacists enslave black laborers, combines sharp allegory with poetic metaphor. Aster Grey, a literal-minded medic, hopes to undermine the ruling Sovereignty with the help of notes left by her mother, but decoding them is an almost impossible challenge. Solomon addresses numerous daunting topics with incision and insight in this stunning achievement.
— Publishers Weekly, Best Book of the Year in Science Fiction/Fantasy

Harrowing and beautiful, this is SF at its best: showing the possible future but warning of the danger of bringing old prejudices and cruelties to that new world. While a story about enslaved people in space could be a one-note polemic, the fully rounded characters bring nuance and genuine pathos to this amazing debut.
— Library Journal, Starred Review

Infused with the spirit of Octavia Butler and loaded with meaning for the present day, An Unkindness of Ghosts will appeal to a wide variety of readers. Solomon’s impassioned, speculative, literary book is sorely needed on library shelves.

— Booklist

The HSS Matilda is a well-crafted world, and . . . the diversity of the people who inhabit it—their various sexual and gender identities, physical abilities, and psychological burdens—is refreshingly visible and vital even as they face brutal discrimination for their differences. An entertaining novel that does not neglect the vitality of its story while probing society’s assumptions.

— Kirkus Reviews

Product Details
ISBN: 9781617759246
ISBN-10: 1617759244
Publisher: Akashic Books, Ltd.
Publication Date: June 29th, 2020
Pages: 352
Language: English