The description for this book really doesn’t fit, in my opinion. (The official one, not mine above.) Technically it describes the book, but it doesn’t capture the right vibe. It makes it sounds like the book is about a quirky ragtag team having a fun space adventure. But this was sedate and slow-paced. It took place entirely on one space station. The characters described were there but also kinda sedate and doing their own things to help or having separate relationships with Kenna, rather than forming a real team. Kenna is described as a “teen guru,” but he was really just a sort of sad, lonely, lost boy living in poverty who didn’t really know much about life because of how he was raised.
This was a quirky take on space life though! There was a lot of weird space stuff. Like the whole Inevitable Philosophy religion. Some weird sentient dough thing one character was keeping alive by feeding it constantly. Stasis cubes to keep food from spoiling. A machine that could speed up time while you were in it.
The whole Inevitable Philosophy thing was so strange and never fully explained, so I had a hard time understanding that whole aspect. The philosophies themselves, at least Kenna’s parents’ philosophies, were so absurd and so not philosophies that I can’t imagine anyone would buy them, though I think their absurdity was kind of the point. They were ridiculous, and finally being exposed to life outside of them and away from his parents, working in a kitchen, making friends, etc., made Kenna realize that.
What I did understand was the message about class inequality and the selfishness of the uber rich, how they get their money from the toil of laborers whom they look down on and don’t even pay enough, and damn, Kenna really brought it at the end!
There was kind of a lot in this book, I’m realizing now that I’m thinking about it. Space. Messages about the greed and the value of the working class. Slavery. Poverty. Neglect. Romance. Friendship. Fine dining and food prep. A lot of those make the book sound dark, but I wouldn’t say it was. There were touching elements. The ending is somewhat bittersweet, but more on the sweet side.
There was what I would call a side plot m/m romance between Kenna and Benzo, and it was nice, though I didn’t feel the supposed deep connection there, at least not until near the end (and even then, I think I kind of accepted it more than truly felt it). Before that, they tasted cheese together, they talked maybe twice that the reader saw, they almost kissed, and then Kenna was using the word love. Whether or not he meant it as romantic love or friend love at that point, I still didn’t feel that strength of emotion. But they were two lonely, struggling teens with difficult lives, so I was rooting for their happiness together.
My favorite part of the book was when Kenna and Benzo were inside the time-accelerating machine, though it was only a small part. It was the most riveting part and made me really want to keep listening. Emotionally, I felt more for and from the characters. It was a situation that really pushed them beyond their limits and nearly broke them, bringing out thoughts and feelings and actions we would’ve never seen otherwise. It was also what finally made me believe the feelings between them more. I think this part alone bumped my rating up half a star.
The audiobook narration by James Fouhey was enjoyable. He was a good choice, as his somewhat calm style matched the feel and pace of the story. Character voices were differentiated well enough that I was never confused.
Overall, though a slow story with some darker themes, this was a touching sort of book with some good messages, a character with lots of growth, a bit of romance, fun and quirky space life, and lots of food!
Trigger/Content Warnings: Slavery. Torture. Suicidal thoughts. For more in-depth info… *SPOILER* The love interest is a slave, and the main character, who is Black, ends up giving himself up to be a slave too in order to sort of dismantle the master’s operation from the inside. They are eventually freed, but earlier in the book there are mentions of how the love interest and his family are tortured, and the MC is tortured off-screen during his time as a slave and becomes disabled. *END SPOILER*
Anyone who likes a quirky take on space life, food, slow and sedate stories, a touch of m/m romance, and some touching relationships.