Sweep of Stars by Maurice Broaddus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a solar-system-spanning space opera that is centered on African culture, mythology and experience, and as such it is a breath of fresh air. It opens a century from now, when the Muungano Empire has spread from the Dreaming City on the moon, to the Bronzeville settlement on Mars, to Saturn's moon Titan and the asteroid belt. Some people may say it resembles James S.A. Corey's The Expanse, but that would be a superficial comparison. For one thing, there's no alien protomolecule (though there is an artificial wormhole) and for another, the focus on the Black experience lends this book an edge that is lacking in the Corey series.
There's a fairly large cast of characters, but each chapter is clearly labeled with the featured character and that character's location and the various storylines are easy to follow. There's also some interesting work done with the characters' points of view: for example, one character, Amachi Adisa, whose chapters open and close the book, is told with the second-person POA; another, Wachiru Adisa, is told in first person plural (which took a little getting used to). More standard third person and first person singular POVs adorn the other chapters. This actually helped me in getting into the characters' heads and differentiating their voices.
The only knock I have against this book is that the stated timeline, with the most important events happening this century, seems a bit...far-fetched, to say the least. I would say at least a hundred years needs to be added to every incident to make it feel more realistic. For instance, the author has "ecological collapse on Earth and climate terraforming" taking place in 2030, and really, the chance of that happening is nil. At least the "climate terraforming" part, although sadly the "ecological collapse" is already in our sights. But I very much doubt the outcome will be anything close to this book, Elon Musk's prattling about Mars notwithstanding.
Still, this is an absorbing, worthwhile read, and a gratifying one, in that it challenges the boundaries of the genre. It's the first in a trilogy, and I will definitely be seeking out the other books in the series.
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