NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • Karen Lord is one of today’s most brilliant young talents. Her science fiction, like that of predecessors Ursula K. Le Guin and China Miéville, combines star-spanning plots, deeply felt characters, and incisive social commentary. With The Galaxy Game, Lord presents a gripping adventure that showcases her dazzling imagination as never before.
On the verge of adulthood, Rafi attends the Lyceum, a school for the psionically gifted. Rafi possesses mental abilities that might benefit people . . . or control them. Some wish to help Rafi wield his powers responsibly; others see him as a threat to be contained. Rafi’s only freedom at the Lyceum is Wallrunning: a game of speed and agility played on vast vertical surfaces riddled with variable gravity fields.
Serendipity and Ntenman are also students at the Lyceum, but unlike Rafi they come from communities where such abilities are valued. Serendipity finds the Lyceum as much a prison as a school, and she yearns for a meaningful life beyond its gates. Ntenman, with his quick tongue, quicker mind, and a willingness to bend if not break the rules, has no problem fitting in. But he too has his reasons for wanting to escape.
Now the three friends are about to experience a moment of violent change as seething tensions between rival star-faring civilizations come to a head. For Serendipity, it will challenge her ideas of community and self. For Ntenman, it will open new opportunities and new dangers. And for Rafi, given a chance to train with some of the best Wallrunners in the galaxy, it will lead to the discovery that there is more to Wallrunning than he ever suspected . . . and more to himself than he ever dreamed.
Praise for The Galaxy Game
“There is a weight and grace to [Lord’s] prose that put me in mind of pewter jewelry.”—NPR
“This novel is a satisfying exercise in being off-balance, a visceral lesson in how to fall forward and catch yourself in an amazing new place.”—The Seattle Times
“A smart science fictional fable as inventive and involving as it is finally vital.”—Tordotcom
This subtle, cerebral novel continues to explore the far-flung future introduced in The Best of All Possible Worlds. The myriad manifestations of humanity have settled on a number of worlds, still recovering from the devastation that rendered one of the major planets inhospitable. Enter Rafi, a young man burdened with potent psychic abilities, and his best friend, Ntenman, who feels oddly responsible for Rafi's wellbeing. As circumstances take the pair from one world to another, always one step ahead of trouble or disaster, they remain united through their love of the popular game known as Wallrunning, where Ntenman excels and Rafi struggles. As Rafi hones his powers, he learns that his ability to draw people together as a nexus may hold the key to restoring an easier, quicker way to travel between worlds, which could revolutionize galactic society. The pacing is slow and the story is understated, not helped by leaps from one perspective to another. Lord's exploration of alien culture and character development overshadows any real action or sense of progress, making this a dry but intriguing offering.
Not for Me
I would like to thank Del Rey and NetGalley for granting me a copy of this e-book to read in exchange for an honest review. Though I received this e-book for free that in no way impacts my review.
Goodreads Teaser: "For years, Rafi Delarua saw his family suffer under his father's unethical use of psionic power. Now the government has Rafi under close watch, but, hating their crude attempts to analyse his brain, he escapes to the planet Punartam, where his abilities are the norm, not the exception. Punartam is also the centre for his favourite sport, wallrunning - and thanks to his best friend, he has found a way to train with the elite. But Rafi soon realises he's playing quite a different game, for the galaxy is changing; unrest is spreading and the Zhinuvian cartels are plotting, making the stars a far more dangerous place to aim. There may yet be one solution - involving interstellar travel, galactic power and the love of a beautiful game."
I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book more than I did, but it simply wasn't meant to be. It took me multiple attempts before I was able to read the book cover to cover. While there are some engaging characters and concepts, I found the story as a whole to be disjointed and confusing. The names were all to alien to begin with, and there were to many characters with separate stories to comfortably keep track of. While I feel that the ideas embodied in this book have merit, the current iteration simply doesn't withstand the test of being out of the author's head for me. I can see how this story would make sense to the person that conceived of it, but the intuitive leaps they made were not actually intuitive for me, which made this book an exercise in frustration rather than one of pleasure. I'd be interested in a revised version, but it would require a lot of work before being a book that wouldn't challenge me in all the wrong ways.
One of my favorites of all time
This book is pure excellence. The organic and authentic way Karen writes whole universes into being, full of nuance and greave - for SCFI fans, especially those valuing a future in which Black people exist or an alternate reality in which Black people thrive - this is it. I live for her books in the same way I craved Octavia Butler, she is an immaculate world creator, with characters that are full of life and a delight to adventure with, I can’t wait to read more of her work. In appreciation, thank you, Karen.