Nophek Gloss is one of the most imaginative books I’ve read this year. It’s an epic, vivid, diverse, and at times brutal foray into interlocking themes of family, justice, and revenge.
“When a young man’s planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy by debut author Essa Hansen, for fans of Revenger and Children of Time.
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.” – Goodreads Blurb
Whew…where to start? I remember reading the initial blurb Orbit put out about Nophek Gloss when the book was first announced on Twitter and thought “Wow that sounds really interesting!” A ship that create its own bubble universe and a wider multiverse that can be explored. I had a feeling this book would be interesting and I was right.
First let me say again this book is imaginative. I mean really imaginative. Any good sci-fi book has to be. What stands out to me in Nophek Gloss is really two things, the extraordinary multiverse Hansen has created with universes big and ever so small, and the rich and diverse species that exist in them. Oh…and then the ship the main characters run around in. So maybe that makes three things.
So I admit I don’t read tons of science fiction. I know there are plenty of other stories out there with a multiverse (it’s the basis of Marvel and DC’s comics for Pete’s sake) and the idea of bubble or pocket universes isn’t new to fiction either. But this was my first real experience with them in a book outside of comics. And it REALLY worked for me. The concept gave so much extra flair and depth to the story. There are massive universes and teeny tiny pocket/bubble universes (like the one the ship can create) and everything in between. But it isn’t like you can just travel from one to another. Moving into a new universe may have little to no effect on you, or it could kill you if your body isn’t suitable to it. This gave the story some really interesting dynamics and some integral plot points. It was really cool.
Then there are the many and varied diverse species who populate the story. The closest thing I can associate it with is Star Wars or Star Trek. Like, you know how both of those “universes” have some epically diverse species living in them? Nophek Gloss is much the same. Hansen didn’t get lazy in creating the creatures that inhabit her story. They are SOOOOO freaking interesting and different. I just…I can’t explain it without just copying and pasting the descriptions of them. And they aren’t all humanoid looking bi-pedal creatures (though most of them are). Suffice it to say this was one of the aspects of the book I loved most. I’ll admit it was hard at times to see some of the species in my head based on the descriptions, and there were a lot of different ones to keep up with, but once I told myself to let my imagination take over from where Hansen’s descriptions left off things settled in perfectly. And the diversity isn’t just in the different kinds of species, but also in their sexuality and gender dynamics. One of my favorite characters was one who could change their gender/sex at will. This was such a complex and moving character and really my favorite of the book.
And then the ship. You know glossy black one you see on the cover? That ship was really cool. It’s kind of alive and not totally mechanical. It forms something like a very subtle symbiotic relationship with the people who travel inside it. And it can create a small bubble universe that surrounds it on demand. So yeah…pretty sweet place to call home as you navigate the stars.
Then there’s the actual story itself. I said above it hits on interlocking themes of family, justice, and revenge. And whew…does it ever. I mean right from the get-go your thrown into them. Family is so integral to the story, especially “found family.” As the blurb indicates the main character loses his family in very devastating fashion. Every interaction Caiden has from that point on is in some form or fashion a reaction to to that event, and the people he comes into contact with will have to be sifted through a familial screen. But family is vitally important to every character in the story, big and small. It carries from the first to the very last page. If this is a trope or theme you enjoy then you’ll probably love it here.
Justice and Revenge almost go hand-in-hand in Nophek Gloss. I mean they really are two sides of the same coin. Caiden wants both for what happened to him and his family. But what Hansen did really well with these themes is evolve them. So, a mini-spoiler moment here (skip to next paragraph if you want to miss it) that doesn’t spoil the overall plot…ok ready…skip ahead if you don’t want it…there’s a point where Caiden is able to advance his years in a few hours time. Like he can add six years to his life, AND add all the knowledge and experience that would come with them. It’s a really cool plot device that also allows Hansen to make some easy choices with the plot. But the thing I really dug about it was how Caiden’s desire for justice and revenge matured as he aged. First it was that of a teenage boy with all that teenage angst and burning fire, but then it was that of a young man, still burning, but now a little more controlled and directed. But it’s still revenge so the threat of it bursting out of control into a total conflagration is always there. Anyway, I really really thought this was well done.
Now, I have to admit the diversity thing I liked above also has a downside. There are a ton of unique names and ideas, and creatures, and well everything that at times you start to feel a little lost. Thankfully there is a glossary at the end of the book to help you keep up. But yeah sometimes I found myself glossing over things. And there was one recurring aspect of the book where you are led to believe one thing and by the end, well things change. It seemed obvious given the many references and allusions to it what would happen in the end and I was right. I won’t tell you what it is, but I think you’ll figure it out. It doesn’t take away from the story in my opinion, but it just didn’t come as a surprise when the reveal happened.
But, overall I enjoyed the writing. The book had a strong opening that might give you some anxiety as Hansen does a great job of letting you know something isn’t right before unleashing the dogs on you. The middle of the book did drag at times for me but it wasn’t horrible. There was enough shiny new things to look at and explore that it still kept my interest. That burning thirst for revenge and all the decisions (quite often bad ones) that went with it kept me turning the page to see how the story would end up. The action scenes were thrilling and at times edge of your seat. I mean there were points I really wondered if things would work out for our band of misfits.
So in closing let me just say how enjoyable this read was. If you are looking for a thrilling, diverse, and unique read to close out the year definitely pick this one up. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Essa Hansen has given us a strong debut and I for one can’t wait to see where the rest of the story goes.
I was sent an ARC of this book by the publisher.
4 of 5 Stars
Author: Essa Hansen
Publication Date: November 17, ,2020