This book was sent to me at no cost by the publisher, Hachette. The trade paperback (which is lovely) is out now; smaller paperback in September.
I mean. HELLO. New Alastair Reynolds! I was so happy to get this to review. So hi, if you don’t know me I’m a massive fangirl, keep that in mind as you read I guess?
This is the sequel to Revenger, from about three years ago. You probably want to read that before reading this because it sets up the sister relationship that’s at the heart of the story, between Adrana and Arafura (now Fura), as well as the horror in which Bosa Sennen is held throughout the… well, world is the wrong word, but you know what I mean. The area in which the book is set. And that’s the other thing that the first book sets up: that these books are set many, many thousands of years in our future, and they live in the Congregation – which is our solar system having been dismantled and the stuff of the planets used to construct an uncounted number of smaller worlds. Also, civilisation has not been continuous throughout that time; humanity has swelled and fallen over that time, inhabiting more or fewer world, having more or less connections between the worlds, and with technology progressing or lapsing. Which is what allows for the many ships who travel between the worlds to visit the now-uninhabited ones and find ‘treasures’ which may or may not work for them, dating back to previous civilisations.
I guess it’s like modern Britons or Libyans trying to make the Roman aqueducts work.
Anyway, if you haven’t read Revenger I highly recommend it – clearly – as a space opera with deep roots in nautical adventures (including in the language, it’s all coves and sails and broadsides), starring a defiant young woman having mad adventures.
Spoilers for Revenger below this…
So Shadow Captain is told by Adrana, which is a major change from Revenger. And I think I’m glad for the change because in this book, Fura was really creeping me out. One of the minor lurking questions throughout is to what extent Bosa has affected the Ness sisters, and continues to do so after her death; there’s no doubt that it’s significant. And I like this aspect: to suggest that trauma has no linger impact is ridiculous, and too often that’s what fiction likes to do. Alternatively fiction does sometimes dwell on the trauma – and while that has its place, too, Reynolds is interested in the balance that Adrana finds, in worrying about Bosa in her brain and yet getting on with life. Which in her case means being on Bosa’s ship which is now their ship, figuring out what Fura’s deal is, worrying about how to not be assumed to BE Bosa, and various other issues that crop up over the course of the novel.
I might like this one more than Revenger, I think. Partly that’s because we’re past the growing-up stage, which Fura had to do a bit of in that first book; which I don’t mind but it’s not always my cup of tea. Partly it’s the sisterly tension between Fury and Adrana which is mesmerising in a car-crash kind of way. Partly it’s the dread, knowing that the whole world still looks on their ship as being Bosa’s. And then there are the other issues – like that of quoins, which Reynolds just LEFT THERE in the last book, and OF COURSE he introduces another little dangling issue of MONUMENTAL consequence, and doesn’t resolve it.
Hopefully in about 2021 there’ll be the third instalment of the Ness sisters’ adventures and things will be as resolved as they can be.
I really like this book.