• The Good: Reluctant sentient spaceship living in a world of shifting realities
  • The Bad: The mystery is too short and simple, and the stakes are low
  • The Literary: Sherlock / Watson pastiche

After it is discharged from military service, traumatized transport ship The Shadow’s Child makes a substandard living selling mind-altering tea that combats the weirdness and unreality of the FTL deep space drive. The Shadow’s Child is hired by detective Long Chau, an eccentric scholar in search of a corpse, and when they find it was murdered, The Shadow’s Child is pulled into Long Chau’s investigation.

The character relationship and mystery mirror those of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, with the transport ship trailing along the assertive, bold, often-drugged Long Chau, who correctly deduces The Shadow’s Child’s past trauma and proceeds to solve the crime. It’s all a bit of a pastiche.

The world-building is what really shines for me though, and it’s great to know there is so much more of it out there. In the future Vietnamese-influenced culture of Scattered Pearls Belt, humans and mindship avatars exist side-by-side in a world of overlapping physical and virtual realities aboard ring habitats. Of course, the existence of sentient spaceships makes for great story-telling opportunities, and I like that we get to know one with PTSD who brews special teas for a living. However, I never quite fell in love with the character of either protagonist.

The Shadow’s Child wanted to say no, but it would have been a lie. Long Chau was an expanding star, burning loud and bright, mesmerizing in her relentlessness, and ultimately one that would swallow you whole.