Karen Lord is one of today's most brilliant young talents. Her science fiction, like that of predecessors Ursula K. Le Guin and China Miéville, combines star-spanning plots, deeply felt characters, and incisive social commentary. With The Galaxy Game, Lord presents a gripping adventure that showcases her dazzling imagination as never before.
On the verge of adulthood, Rafi attends the Lyceum, a school for the psionically gifted. Rafi possesses mental abilities that might benefit people... or control them. Some wish to help Rafi wield his powers responsibly; others see him as a threat to be contained. Rafi's only freedom at the Lyceum is Wallrunning: a game of speed and agility played on vast vertical surfaces riddled with variable gravity fields.
Serendipity and Ntenman are also students at the Lyceum, but unlike Rafi, they come from communities where such abilities are valued. Serendipity finds the Lyceum as much a prison as a school, and she yearns for a meaningful life beyond its gates. Ntenman, with his quick tongue, quicker mind, and a willingness to bend if not break the rules, has no problem fitting in. But he too has his reasons for wanting to escape.
Now the three friends are about to experience a moment of violent change as seething tensions between rival star-faring civilizations come to a head. For Serendipity, it will challenge her ideas of community and self. For Ntenman, it will open new opportunities and new dangers. And for Rafi, given a chance to train with some of the best Wallrunners in the galaxy, it will lead to the discovery that there is more to Wallrunning than he ever suspected... and more to himself than he ever dreamed.
Star-spanning science fiction with a trio of coming of age characters, amidst complex geopolitics, mindships, set across multiple planets and cultures. Different and fresh sets of eyes -- and a few familiar ones -- on the continuing saga begun in Lord's The Best of All Possible Worlds. Miles brings even more and even better accent work here, with Rafi and Ntenman being really well characterized in particular. (Ntenman's first person POV was a delight each time he came into focus.) A bit less in terms of details and focus on the "wall running" game than the tin might imply, but enough that I really want to read a short story where all those details make sense in coming out. I want to see this game in action! With historic echoes of games as memory of war tactics. Highly recommended. Also recommended: Re-listen to the prologue when you're done. Sets up plenty of action to be had in further books set in this universe.
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Rafi is fourteen years old, on the verge of legal adulthood as a Homesteader on Cygnus B, and a student at the Lyceum, a school for the psionically gifted. Unfortunately, on Cygnus, psionic powers are mostly feared, and the Lyceum is as much about keeping the students from becoming dangerous as it is about teaching them to use their powers well. Rafi, with powers that will enable him to help people or to control them, is not being helped by the school's treatment of him; instead, he's having nightmares and feeling less and less secure.
Fellow students Ntenman and Serendipity are communities that do support psi powers, and are a little more protected, but have their own reasons for wanting to leave.
So Rafi does, using his powers to help him slip out, and heads first to his mother's home, and then to his aunt's. Serendipity and Ntenman soon follow. It's not long before all three are off Cygnus, on another world, faced with new challenges and about to experience violent political change.
Lord has built an interesting galaxy. There aren't any nonhuman intelligences mentioned, but humans have dispersed and diverged a bit--one of those divergences being the differences in how common psionic abilities are in different populations. It's also a galaxy that, in the not too distant past, experienced a galactic war that wiped out life on one planet, forcing the survivors of one of the most psi-capable populations to resettle elsewhere--with strong tensions between those intent on rebuilding what they once had, and those intent on building new lives in the worlds they live on now.
We see Rafi, Ntenman, and Serendipity faced with real challenges to how they view the world. Rafi has to learn to embrace powers he's feared, initially in the context of "just a game," the popular wallrunning game that involves vertical surfaces and widely different gravitational levels on different parts of the wall. Serendipity is challenged in her ideas of community, and Ntenman finds his skills and opportunities leading him in exactly the direction he didn't want to go: helping to advance his father's business. Lord does a great job of showing us all of these characters growing, changing, and struggling with what their world is doing around them. The political situation is also developed with subtlety and nuance, and grounded in the plausibly real motivations of the different individuals and groups involved.
The narrator, Robin Miles, also does a great job with the different voices.
It's a wonderful book, and highly recommended.
I received a free copy of the audiobook from Audible in exchange for an honest review.
What made the experience of listening to The Galaxy Game the most enjoyable?
Karen Lord weaves a tale that features diverse and refreshing characters along with those we met in her first novel, "The Best of All Possible Worlds" . This series is undoubtedly for writers and true sci-fi fans. She does not waste the time of readers by re-telling the first book which is a relief. Instead, we are exploring the galaxy from Rafi's perspective. We also get to meet old and some exciting new characters. There are questions from the first novel that are answered and there are additional questions that keep you engaged to the end. I would recommend this series to the new adult and young adult audiences as well. The world building is simply phenomenal.
What did you like best about this story?
Madame Lord's writing reminds me of the styles of Ursula Le Guin and Octavia Butler. But the story is original and exciting. The 'rules' are not unreasonable and the worlds are all connected.
What about Robin Miles’s performance did you like?
What is there not to like? I just finished listening to "Half of a Yellow Sun" prior to this novel. Her ability to bring the characters to life somehow brings the characters to life. The author writes a novel that enables you to gain affection and understanding of the characters. But Robin puts her voice to WERK and brings them to life.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
"Links", "Galaxy Secrets", "The Caretaker's Children"
Any additional comments?
I can't wait to read the next book in this series. I found it to be a pleasant surprise that this novel has become part of a coming of age series for Rafi. I would advise new readers to read the first novel first. The series may need a guide with some artwork at some point. It truly is worthy of the effort.