‘The Galaxy Game’ is not a traditional sequel. It’s set in the same world as ‘The Best Of All Possible Worlds’ and a thread of that story continues in Karen Lord’s newest novel. But the focus this time is on Grace Delarua’s nephew, Rafi.
For years, Rafi watched his family suffer abuse at the psionic hands of his father, delivered via psionic abilities that are not only rare, but not very well understood. When Rafi exhibits similar psionic capabilities, he’s remanded to a special school where the secrets of his brain might be unlocked. Fear of whom and what he might become drives Rafi to leave the school. His aunt tries to help him, but ultimately he must leave the planet for long enough to gain his majority. Then he can make his own decisions about his life and his future.
On planet Punartam, his abilities are not so rare or misunderstood. Punartam is also the centre of the popular sport ‘wallrunning’ – which is a version of parkour performed at different gravities. Rafi and his friend Ntenman get the opportunity to train with the elite. As with all professional sports, however, not all of the game is played on the field or in this case, the wall.
‘The Galaxy Game’ is a difficult novel to define. It’s one part coming of age story, one part political intrigue, one part adventure, one part human interest, even though I’m not entirely sure any of the people in this world still qualify as simply human. It’s definitely Science Fiction and probably qualifies as space opera! With so many parts, the book sometimes feels off centre or I hesitate to say piecemeal, but many of the scenes amounted to nothing more than a delivery of history, information or an idea. All the ideas were fascinating; Karen Lord’s world is fascinating. She spends so much time telling us about it, describing in detail all the wonders of it, however, that the thread of the actual story often gets lost.
Another issue I had was the multiple points of view. This may be what had the book feeling so fragmentary. There was a strong thread of plot with Rafi’s story but there was so much else going on, so many point of view characters having their say, that I often forgot whose story I was supposed to be reading. The result being that it was an effort to stay engaged and to care about the outcome.
Beneath these loose threads lies Karen Lord’s exquisite prose. Her world is vast and inventive and her many variations on ‘humanity’ startling and interesting. One of the aspects I enjoyed most in ‘The Best Of All Possible Worlds’ is carried forward here: the juxtaposition of culture and the dance of people making an attempt to coexist, despite their disparate beliefs. The fear and expectation, exhilaration, are all very well elucidated.
The wallrunning is extraordinary. I can only imagine how much fun it must have been to come up with a unique sport and then put it on the page in a way that makes it so clearly understood. I also liked Rafi. I wanted him to succeed. I just wish we’d had more time with just him. So while this story did not work for me, I found the world as engaging as I did the first time ’round and I would look for another book by Karen Lord.
(pub: Del Rey. 336 page paperback. Price: $11.25 (US). ISBN: 978-0-34553-407-1)
(pub: Jo Fletcher Books. 352 page hardback. Price: £17.22 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78087-689-4)