The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt. ★★★★
It feels like forever since I’ve had so much fun with a book!
Callie and the rest of the crew of The White Raven exist far out on the edge of the solar system, doing salvage runs and acting as the closest thing to a police force. Then on a routine salvage mission, they find a centuries old “Goldilocks ship,” with one of the original inhabitants still in cryo-sleep. When Dr. Elena Oh wakes up, she proclaims that she’s made first contact with an alien species and that the rest of her crew is in need of rescue. Humanity’s already made contact with aliens… but is this an entirely new species? And how did Elena get back to our solar system anyway? As the questions pile up, the crew of The White Raven is set to uncover a centuries long conspiracy.
I love science fiction books with good aliens, and The Wrong Stars 100% delivers. The aliens humanity’s made contact with while Elena’s been gone are called the Liars. Because they lie. About everything. Every single group of Liar’s humanity’s met has spun wildly different stories about everything from the origins of their species to what day of the week it is or what their names are. They’ll never admit they’re lying, even when it’s completely obvious, but will instead say another group of Liars is lying, blame it on translation errors, or just insist that they don’t see anything wrong with the piece of technology that’s just exploded. In short, the Liars are an incredibly original alien culture that also manages to be hilarious.
It also means that it’s impossible to get any straight answers out of them. Do they know anything about what happened with Elena? Who can tell! And you definitely can’t trust any answer they give. And man, does the crew of The White Raven start wanting answers.
The pacing is quite snappy, and the narrative never drags. From the get go, there’s plenty of action and excitement to be had. On the whole, The Wrong Stars is more focused on plot shenanigans than character development, but the cast still managed to be surprisingly memorable. Callie and Elena are the clear leads, and the story switches between their POV sections. However, I think my favorite character might be the ship’s mechanic, Ashok, who’s a post-human obsessed with transforming himself into a cyborg. While the romance subplot between Callie and Elena possibly suffers from the focus on plot and the quick pacing, I never found it bothersome. All in all, I found the cast wholly enjoyable.
Also, there’s so many queer characters! Going in, I knew that there was a f/f romance subplot between Callie and Elena (this was part of why I picked it up), but I didn’t know that Callie was demisexual. There’s also a supporting character who’s ace, which made me so happy, and there’s trans and nonbinary supporting characters as well. I haven’t seen The Wrong Stars popping up on any lists for queer sci-fi, and that’s a shame. If you’re looking for a fun, well written space opera with queer characters, The Wrong Stars is right up there with A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.
Anyway, I enjoyed the heck out of The Wrong Stars. It’s a refreshingly fun, hard to put down book. I strongly recommend it, and I can’t wait for a sequel!