Tina S Beier
Skyward Inn (Book Review)
by Aliya Whiteley
Science Fiction / Speculative Fiction
4 / 5 Stars
I received this novel an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
Skyward Inn is a ponderous, melancholy exploration into memory, community, and colonialism.
The story follows two perspectives, that of Jem and her semi-estranged son, Fosse, who live in an area of England that has annexed itself from the rest of the world. Jem operates a bar with Isley, an alien from Qita, a planet Earth had conquered without a battle. A visitor arrives at their bar, bringing with them change and revelations about the war and humanity. This is definitely on the slower, more speculative side of science fiction. It somehow manages to be both deeply interesting and somewhat dry at the same time. I don’t mean it was boring, but it’s more about style than substance until the last quarter.
That being said, I very much enjoyed it. I give the prose and readability of the novel 5 / 5. There were some beautifully-wrought sentences, and I found the story very easy to follow and understand, despite the non-linear way it was sometimes told. I liked that we had two perspectives and that Fosse’s journey mimicked his mother’s in many ways. I liked how information was revealed in a backwards manner, with assumptions countered or solidified later. That being said, I found the characters a little lacking. Fosse was interesting in how he’s developed some complexes from having a semi-absent mother and a domineering adopted father (his uncle); his motivations and actions made sense to me. His wrestling with his mortality and sexuality was understandable. Jem, unfortunately, was very bland. I found her perspective on her relationship (or lack thereof) with Fosse to be too simplistic and somewhat contradictory. Her relationship with Isley was nowhere near as torturous as an unrequited love theme could have been. Yes, it all makes sense, but a little less logic and more emotion would have made her character more interesting to me. Even at the end, I didn’t understand why she’ was attracted to him (and given Garrus from Mass Effect is my celebrity pass, it wouldn't have taken much to convince me), nor did I really care about her fate.
I give the plot a similar lesser ranking, as there were times when I wondered where the story was going. I really enjoyed the twist, as it was a revelation with fascinating implications surrounding human aggression and colonialism. Still, I also didn’t understand one aspect of it, which you can read by highlighting the space here:
I didn't understand how Jem could reject the fusing. Wouldn’t more people then? Wouldn't there be some resistance? Also, while it’s not the same thing, the Qitans really reminded me of the Changelings from Star Trek DS9 and then all I could picture was Isley looking like Odo, and I couldn't picture anything else.
That being said, Skyward Inn is a thought-provoking, calm story about assimilation and choice.
Here are some quotes I liked:
“It’s a soft gray bleed from night into morning.”
“The bliss of empty, forgotten buildings.”
“The excess, the disposability, the opulence of their air conditioning running from coal while the world burned, has become legendary.” (regarding America)