Worldbuilding to a multiversal level, Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen is an incredibly colourful and diverse sci-fi novel that wouldn't be complete without the main character's ongoing suffering and uncertain alliances.
Fiction, LGBTQIA+, science fiction
Graphic: animal death, gore, violence. Moderate: emotional abuse, physical abuse, torture. Minor: alcohol. See the full list here.
Caiden's planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans.
He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying. (Source)
This is honestly the first science fiction book I've ever read - and god did it ever exceed my expectations. Nophek Gloss is phenomenal. It's diverse, creative, and so complex, but written in a way you can easily understand what's happening.
When I went into this book, I wasn't entirely sure what I was even getting into. If you don't know I'm a huge MCU fan and their recent portrayal of the multiverse left me confused and worried about how the Phases will continue. But Hansen's multiverse makes a surprising amount of sense. I could follow how the multiverse came to be and how people can travel through universes.
There are only a handful of books I've read with a male protagonist, but I really liked Caiden, especially his friendship with Leta (who is so neurodiverse, if not very autistically-coded). Caiden is a young, unsophisticated MC that is still learning how the world works (and has no idea the multiverse exists). It's similar to Hessa in Hall of Smoke, but unlike her, Caiden doesn't have the knowledge or experience - he's just a kid.
This is where we have our lovable found family trope come in, and it does not disappoint. It's a true band of misfits and outcasts that fight, and bicker, and make mistakes, but are still a loving, connected family at the end of the day.
Slight spoiler ahead:
Caiden is 14 at the beginning of the book, but not long after the character needs to be older than he is or else the story can't take place. And this is one of the best parts of being a reader and a writer because I just know that Hansen sat down and thought "how am I going to age up this character without having to wait actual years for it to happen," and concluded she, like every good writer, that she was going to make something up. It's why I like the fantasy and sci-fi genres so much: you can literally create whatever you want and it doesn't matter if it's impractical.
The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend
As I read this book, I questioned who the main villain really was. Even the supposed "good guys" seemed somewhat suspicious. For a character like Caiden, that is still learning and uncertain who he can trust, it's makes for some unlikely alliances. We all know the saying: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Well, it definitely applies here. There are characters you will hate, then sympathize with, then go back to hating. It's a terrible twisting of emotions and it's perfect.
I almost - almost - bought the second book on impulse at Indigo, but sided against it because 1) it's almost Christmas and 2) I have no money, what was I even thinking!?