Blurb from Goodreads
In the fading light of a dying star, a soldier for hire searches for a missing refugee ship and uncovers a universe-shattering secret.
Orphan, refugee, and soldier-for-hire Asala Sikou doesn’t think too much about the end of civilisation. Her system’s star is dying, and the only person she can afford to look out for is herself.
When a ship called The Vela vanishes during what was supposed to be a flashy rescue mission, a reluctant Asala is hired to team up with Niko, the child of a wealthy inner planet’s president, to find it and the outer system refugees on board.
But this is no ordinary rescue mission; The Vela holds a secret that places the fate of the universe in the balance, and forces Asala to decide—in a dying world where good and evil are far from black and white, who deserves to survive?
The Vela is a most interesting and unique read. It’s a space opera unlike any I’ve read before as originally it was published in episodic format with each episode having been written by one of four different authors. It’s now published in its entirety with episodes being somewhat akin to chapters that all come together to tell the tale of a missing spaceship known as The Vela.
In a distant solar system the sun that gives nourishment and sustains the surrounding planets is slowly dying due to persistent mining… and basically corporate greed, mismanagement, not giving a damn about the bigger picture… A LOT of red flags that should be waved for our own industry oriented ways of life here. This means that life on these planets is becoming more and more untenable. So much so that the planets on the outer edge of this system have no become so cold that they are no incompatible with life. The citizens of these planets, including one called Hypatia, have to flee and become refugees searching for somewhere among the inner planets to keep their way of life going.
One of these Hypatian refugees is Asala who has found a way to make herself useful to the president of an inner planet called Khayyam; Asala is pretty much a mercenary / gun for hire. She’s extremely smart, incredibly singular of thought, and basically this woman has lost her entire family, way of life etc that there just is no messing with her. Also she’s deaf which was fantastic disability rep because it was handled in such a way that didn’t make it feel like sad inspo porn for the abled. It was literally she’s deaf, she deals with it, and can actually use her deafness to her advantage when she turns off her hearing aid as it helps her focus more. I really liked this spin on showing the positivity of being disabled. That just because a person is disabled in some way doesn’t mean they’re there to pitied etc, that they can live a great and fulfilling life.
Anyway, Asala is called to the planet Khayyam where the president, President Ekrem, tasks her with tracking down a missing space vessel named The Vela filled with refugees. And hitching along for the ride, as a tech / data analyst / computer specialist / intel type, is the President’s child Niko.
Can I just gives props to the awesomeness that is Niko as a character. Niko is gender non binary and at no instance is this made a huge deal of. They just are who they are and I love that. It’s just effortless inclusivity and massive applause! Also they’re super adorable as a character. I love how complicated their relationship with their father turns out to be, and how their struggle with the entitlements stemming from the privilege of their birth versus the greater good is played out.
Anyway, off Asala and Niko set to track down this missing spaceship but of course, all is not as it seems because it turns out The Vela may not be missing as much as purposefully diverted to a refugee colony, and the story spins for us a glorious web of deceit, greed, and survival as the cast of characters struggle to find ways to stay alive and to potentially rescue the citizens of this entire solar system from their sun’s death.
This book is so great.
It tackles so many important issues including looking at the management of a huge refugee crisis, examining the roles of government leadership in determining whose life is worth more than another’s, global environmental greed, erasure of cultural identity, blood ties versus the found family trope… just sooo much good stuff! And all wrapped up with an amazingly diverse cast of characters including LGBTQ+, non-binary, and disabled. AND AMAZING FEMALE REP! I just love the diversity of female characters in this too.
I did nervously wonder at the start how the book would flow as a narrative piece because of how it’s written in episodic format. Would each episode jar with the previous one? Would each author be too much about trying to overtake the story in their individual episodes etc etc.
Well my fears were completely unfounded as this book flowed almost effortlessly from one episode to the next. So much so that I’ve forgotten which author wrote which episode. The authors must all have worked so hard together to find a cohesive voice. I would absolutely love to know exactly how they did it! Did they meet up? Did they have Zoom conferences? How did they plot? Who decided on character development? The mind just boggles at how they all managed to blend their voices so seamlessly together … well almost seamlessly, there were one or two instances that felt a bit clunky but really that’s me being very picky!
I guess the one minor quibble I do have is that this is a bit more plot driven rather than character driven. And really one can’t call that a quibble because it’s my personal taste. I would have liked a little more character building for some of the side characters (Asala and Niko as leads were very well fleshed out so no complaints there) but that’s just me. If you love plot driven, adventure focused science fiction then this is very much the book for you.
Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a good old fashioned space opera. I’m now really eager to read the next instalment!
*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*