A fresh sci-fi for the modern era that successfully balances serious themes with exciting space opera.
First of all, Thankyou to Jonathan Nevair and Storytellers on Tour for the opportunity to review this unique book.
It’s one I’d been really intrigued about since the author first contacted me a few months ago. The tour was the perfect opportunity to fast track this up the reading list by a couple of weeks and join my fellow Roadies to draw attention to this exciting book!
A well thought out world, Old Tot.
The Sagittarius Arm (The Sag Arm or simply The Arm for short) is a well realised planetary system with factions, rebellions, ambitious individuals, powerful monopolies and hegemonies, religious fanatics and people fighting to preserve their culture. This gives it such a rich, in depth feel I really appreciated.
This might of course require extra concentration for some readers to keep track of! As well as this, the writing style is very respectful of the reader’s intelligence – by this I mean at times the prose can border on more of an academic structure, but not overwhelmingly so. It just (at times) might require a little more focus or a re-reading of a paragraph if you’re one of those readers who switches onto autopilot now and again.
It’s never pretentious so I didn’t find this off-putting; personally I prefer the way it’s written as it exudes a really professional command of the storytelling. It doesn’t hold your hand too much and this for me adds to the overall enjoyment.
While on the topic of style, Nevair invokes some really beautiful imagery that perfectly captures the biospheres and locations of the story, from spaceships to the rainforest planet of Heroon, to the deadly winds of Kol 2, its picturesque blue sands a facade for the death they can bring. The author is equally adept with observations on the human condition and the way of the world. There are several instances of this which are just a delight to read and leave you smiling in appreciation.
There’s also much to admire in the way everything just fits together. Especially with a debut, it’s great how seamlessly the varying acts of the story transition and blend together to form the overall narrative.
Human technology creates artificial intelligence. And it comes back to bite us. My old friend, Mr. Irony… with impeccable timing, as always
I don’t know how the author approaches writing a book, but I suspect there is a large degree of planning and mapping out the story beforehand as it is smooth and slick. In the later chapters I felt like Nevair always knew where he was going with the story and the characters and how events would lead up to and impact those that came afterwards. It’s not just a series of circumstances that happen but rather a jigsaw carefully pieced together.
Diplomacy and etiquette on the centre stage
Diplomacy plays a massive part throughout the book, in a number of forms. For a start, one of the two main characters is a diplomat. Keen is in some respects a sort of Han Solo figure, although there are many differences in his character. He’s been sent on a diplomatic mission when he’s captured by our other main protagonist, Razor. She is a Mote, belonging to a people whose culture is at threat of extinction and is hoping to use Keen as a bargaining chip to gain more of a voice.
The understanding (and lack of) between these two characters is an interesting dynamic to follow, with a culture clash between the two and many others in the story being a predominant theme. It’s something that affects not just them but millions of others, and ideology, fanaticism and rebellion are big underlying currents of the plot. Some understanding of real life political history can help to appreciate how the author approaches these issues but isn’t essential to understand them in the context of the story.
Tarkassi 9 was a really interesting facility to read about which showed the after effects of biological warfare. Way out in the Outer Rim some of the survivors of past biological counter strikes live with already struggling lungs in a low O2 atmopshere. Every day is a struggle just to survive. War is not portrayed as glorious.
Whilst cultural, ideological and diplomatic challenges are presented on a bigger scale, social etiquette is also addressed and given a pretty significant role throughout the book. This is mainly in the form of gender expression and the progressive normality of everyday life in comparison to our world, in this respect.
Nevair creates an inventive way to express ones gender, one that if I may boldly add, feels more straightforward and seamless than the beginnings of our own expression of personal pronouns within society.
Keen Draden, who identifies as male, introduces himself, or is introduced to strangers, as Draden-ti. The ti signifies his personal gender identification which is also expressed through hand signals in some circumstances. In rarer instances in which people can’t communicate easily, they display identity marks for this purpose.
At first before re-evaluating, I thought the implementation could be labelled a little idealistic. For example, some bad guys refer to Razor as ‘she’ – to which Keen observes “So, they know each other.”
I initially found it difficult to reason that everyone regardless of moral compass would choose to respect others’ pronouns, or that parents would treat their children as gender neutral up until they decide for themselves. However, I read this book seated firmly in the present, looking through a 2021 lens based on the society I live in. It is implied the cultures in this book are centuries ahead of us. Our society today is poles apart even from the ones the previous generation grew up in.
This aspect nevertheless plays a large role in the social interactions in the book, being so different to where we currently sit, so it’s impossible not to dissect how it works in the context of the story and apply it to today. That’s a positive thing. If a book sparks inner reflection and presents something thought provoking and worthy of consideration it’s a force for good.
This is something you’ll feel about various aspects of the book – Nevair-ti has really put thought into everything he writes. Topics are approached delicately, passionately and imaginatively and I really enjoyed reading something that made my brain work (in a good way!) and employ little critical thinking debates in my own head. I’m no expert on gender issues but I enjoyed thinking about how this could be applied to the modern (by our standards) world.
That’s the thing I’ve learned about justice. It doesn’t abate. It might ebb and flow, but like water caught by the tide it keeps moving, and so did we.
Razor and Keen are really interesting characters and I enjoyed the way their stories are told. Razor starts her story at the end of her own journey and we then go right back to when she first meets Keen, which is where his story kicks off. Keen has a past that is revisited, and it’s interesting to learn small amounts of information every now and then which helps to explain his current situation and add to his overall character arc as the story progresses.
All the while, every event is building towards an epic and spine tingling conclusion. I’m not familiar with the Greek tragedy Antigone this tale is inspired by so I can’t comment on the parallels but I imagine based on everything else it’s done very cleverly.
Keen and Razor were really interesting people in the story. Pox, too – a relentless bounty hunter on Keen’s trail, guaranteed to ruin the day.
Jati didn’t walk around things. They walked through them. You either moved out of their way or got run over.
The main draw and big fave for me though is Jati. Their lavender mohawked, steel jawed presence always feels so reassuring, and I have trouble explaining why exactly. It just feels like they have a control and a humour that calms difficult situations, no matter what the stakes are. Even in a situation of tragedy their presence is so comforting. I like the enigmatic, mysterious nature to their character through much of the book and how this is slowly peeled away as you get to know them more.
I just love all of the moments they’re on the page! Certain people can be described in life as lighting up the room, just by their general aura and presence. Jati has the same effect on the page.
If Jati is by your side, you know everything is going to be ok, even when things are very much not going to be ok.
Overall, Goodbye to the Sun is an excellent space opera with its own unique flavour, filled to the brim with passion and personality. That it’s a debut makes this all the more impressive and I can see big things are coming from Jonathan Nevair.
This is Windtide book one, but it also works perfectly as a standalone with its own full story arc. If you’re looking for a new series or a standalone, rest assured it satisfies both needs.
A nonstop thrill ride across an unstable galaxy, combining moral struggle with character-driven adventure…
Tucked away in the blue sands of Kol 2, the Motes are on the brink of cultural collapse. Razor, a bold and daring pilot, leads a last-ditch gambit against their local oppressors, the Targitians. The plan – abduct visiting Ambassador Keen Draden and use him as a bargaining chip to restore her people’s independence in the Sagittarius Arm. But when the operation unravels, Razor is forced to renegotiate terms with the arrogant diplomat.
Light years away on Heroon a radical resistance blossoms. The alluring rainforest planet haunts Keen. All his problems started there during the Patent War, but it’s where Razor’s troubles may find a solution. The moral tide ebbs, exposing an impossible choice that links their futures together more tragically than they ever thought possible.
Please check out Storytellers on Tour for the reviews so far, and those still to come!
How about a chance to win a signed copy of Goodbye to the Sun? This is open internationally – just enter on rafflecopter here for the opportunity!!
Ends June 13, 2021 11:59pm EST.
About the Author
Jonathan Nevair is a science fiction writer and, as Dr. Jonathan Wallis, an art historian and Professor
of Art History at Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia. After two decades of academic teaching
and publishing, he finally got up the nerve to write fiction. Jonathan grew up on Long Island, NY but
now resides in southeast Pennsylvania with his wife and rambunctious mountain feist, Cricket. You
can find him online at http://www.jonathannevair.com and on twitter at @JNevair
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B092TR7R13/
Shadow Spark Publishing: https://shadowsparkpub.com/jonathan-nevair