Nophek Gloss (Book Review)
by Essa Hansen
Science Fiction (Hard + Space Opera)
4 / 5 Stars
A complex and extremely detailed sci-fi that straddles both space opera and hard science fiction, Nophek Gloss is an ambitious and exciting adventure.
The story follows a young man name Caiden who loses everything he loves and in doing so realizes that the world he grew up in isn’t what it seems and that it’s far more vast and complex than he ever realized. This pushes him into a quest for vengeance. It’s a revenge story, but much more than that.
I really enjoyed this! I was quite enthralled by the world and aliens Hansen created. There’s a grittiness to the story that got very dark but never spiralled, for me, into disturbing (there are allusions to torture and the death of a pet, so if that bothers you, be prepared). Yet, moments of tragedy are balanced by those of hope. The action scenes are exciting and the story weaves in ways you don’t expect, with the world-building aspects being integral to the story and not just the backdrop.
I absolutely loved how we’re made to learn about the world as we go, just like Caiden. In that regard, I thought Caiden’s age made sense for the story. And while I found the ageing process to be one of the more improbable aspects of the story, I didn’t find it was thrown in (the fact that other characters undergo it helped in this regard).
One place the story fell a little flat for me was the minor characters. The story puts so much focus on the (overly?) complex technology and hard-sci fi aspects that the characters fall a little to the wayside. I’m not talking about Caiden and Threi (the antagonist), but the rest of Caiden’s crew. We only learn about them from what they tell Caiden about one another, rather than seeing them in action. In truth, I didn’t feel the familial bond that Caiden talks about, as I didn’t find we saw enough of them to form that. I did enjoy the diversity and fluidness of gender and sexuality in both the crew and the universe at large.
Caiden himself is impetuous and stubborn, though also determined and morally fixed. While I didn’t love him, I found his motivations understandable and his mental journey harrowing. He makes stupid mistakes (despite his ageing process, he is still fourteen), which kept the story from becoming formulaic or predictable. I enjoyed following him, but what I liked more was his revenge quest. While he was motivated by personal retribution, this is not just a “kill the villain” story, given the deliberate explanation of how the Casthen company, while unscrupulous, was integral to maintaining the stability of the universe(s) as a whole. This complexity of the world-building is stunning (albeit confusing at times - I didn’t realize until near the end that the Casthen were not a people or a world, but a business, for example. Also, at one point Caiden destroys a TV, which is operated by Unity. Doesn’t he have to pay for that? Are there police?).
And … how dare Hansen make me crush on a smarmy psychopathic villain! Threi absolutely stole the show whenever he was on the page. I love a complex bad guy and Threi worked perfectly for me.
This is one of those books that sticks with you.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this rich space opera with a touch of hard sci-fi, and look forward to the sequel Azura’s Ghost.
I recommend it to people who like Kameron Hurley and don’t mind a bit of violence.