Gareth L. Powell’s Stars and Bones came out on the 15th of February, and it’s one of the best books you’ll read in 2022. Well, if you’re into space opera and cosmic horror. Which I am, and I enjoyed the book so much! I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of the book through NetGalley, so I thank the author and publisher for the opportunity to read and review this gem.
Let me start my Stars and Bones review by saying that some books and some authors are just good at putting into writing the inevitability of something bigger and scarier than humanity. The mysterious entities and their attitude towards humans somewhat reminded me of both Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World and Peter Watts’ Firefall. I’m 100% sure it’s the aliens and the unknown lurking at the corner of my eye that wake some primal fear inside of me.
But enough of my musings. We’re both here for a review, so let’s dive right in!
Stars and Bones: The Plot
Humankind is on the brink of nuclear extinction when one lovely day, someone’s finger twitches, and the bombs start flying. What humankind doesn’t know is that as it tries to wipe itself out, a massive ancient entity, slumbering somewhere in the Solar System, watches, waiting. It would’ve let humankind destroy itself if it wasn’t for the happy coincidence of a scientist discovering portal travel – the substrate, in that very moment that the bombs start flying.
The entity prevents us from wiping ourselves out and casts humankind from Earth so the planet might live in peace. Fast-forward 75 years later, 15 billion people live on a vast fleet of arks – massive ships built with the help of that same entity humans perceive as an angel and call Raijin. Each ship has its own politics, agenda, culture, and way of life. What they have in common is that they’re not allowed to populate a planet.
But when a scouting mission goes terribly wrong and people die, they get something else in common – an alien being that threatens to destroy them all. The story is a race against time that sees our main characters fight not just for their lives in a desperate effort to survive the onslaught of something bigger and scarier than us.
Stars and Bones: The Characters & World
I can’t say I’m that impressed with the characters, and that’s why my rating for the book is 4.5/5*. Eryn is our main protagonist – her sister dies while on a scouting mission, and she insists on investigating what’s happened herself. Our lead was constantly swinging between the extremes of moods and actions, sometimes giving me whiplash. Of course, she was surrounded by a host of other characters, which we had a minimal amount of time to get to know. That’s not the strongest suit of Stars and Bones.
If you don’t count the sentient ships. Each ship had its own avatar (or envoy). In the case of Eryn’s ship, that was the giant reassuring presence of the Furious Ocelot. I have a soft spot for sentient ships, and having so many present was a joyride. Literally.
But I think, for me, the strongest point of this space opera was the world. You have humans, drifting through the emptiness between the stars, living in their own unique ways and still being one species, all the while hunted by something way beyond their comprehension. Stars and Bones packs gruesome descriptions and violent ends, and you should prepare for that if you decide to read it. If you like seeing our kind giving up its place on top of the food chain, read it.
Should You Read It?
Did I not make myself clear? Let’s recap. Stars and Bones by Gareth L. Powell has:
- A cat companion;
- Sentient ships;
- Alien entities as old as the universe;
- Alien threats that can wipe out humanity;
- Violence and space.
That doesn’t do enough justice to the awesome page-turning action that this book is. But it will have to do. If you’re looking for a fun yet terrifying ride, I promise you, you’ve found it. The book’s already out, so make sure you grab it!