Book Review – The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

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Goodreads Synopsis:

For years, Rafi Delarua saw his family suffer under his father’s unethical use of psionic power. Now the government has Rafi under close watch but, hating their crude attempts to analyse his brain, he escapes to the planet Punartam, where his abilities are the norm, not the exception. Punartam is also the centre for his favourite sport, wallrunning – and thanks to his best friend, he has found a way to train with the elite.

But Rafi soon realises he’s playing quite a different game, for the galaxy is changing; unrest is spreading and the Zhinuvian cartels are plotting, making the stars a far more dangerous place to aim. There may yet be one solution – involving interstellar travel, galactic power and the love of a beautiful game.

Review:

Before I start my review, I need to make it very clear that this book is a sequel to The Best of All Possible Worlds and so I recommend not reading this if you’ve not read that because it may contain minor spoilers.

So, as I said this is a sequel although it’s more a companion novel than a direct sequel as it focuses on a minor character from the first book and although several of them do appear in this, it’s only as small cameos and not for very long.

In the first book, Rafi’s father was discovered to be abusing his Psi abilities and was arrested and Rafi, having similar abilities, was sent to a school to learn how to control himself. This book starts off with Rafi at the school where he is very interested in a sport called Wall Running. He then runs away from the school to another planet, Punartam, with his friend Ntenman where he starts making connections and learning about the society there which follows some strict rules regarding social connections. As we follow Rafi and his journey, a lot of things are going on in the background in the galaxy and Rafi ends up involved with these events due to his skills.

It’s hard to review this book as there are some things I absolutely adored, and some things I really didn’t enjoy. For example the book would often change perspectives between different characters but would not make it clear this was happening. It would have been a bit nicer for this to be made more obvious as although I was able to quickly spot it most times, it did sometimes take me a sentence or two to realise that it was now Ntenman’s POV rather than Rafi’s. Another thing is that I just didn’t connect to the characters the same was as I did to Delarua and the rest of the crew from the first book. I found it interesting reading about them, but I didn’t feel so engrossed in their lives that I had to know more. Indeed, I kept reading not for Rafi but for the worldbuilding which continues to be excellent and I really enjoy all the glimpses of the different planets and societies in this Galaxy. I also enjoyed the fact that it was a Sci-Fi novel that focused a lot on a sport as that’s something I don’t often see and so was quite refreshing. I definitely grew to enjoy the book more as I read, and I feel that having read it once, a second read-through would make it more enjoyable (indeed I re-read the very beginning which made a lot more sense after reading and did enjoy it a lot more than the first time where I was slightly confused)

So yes, this is a difficult book to discuss as although I did end up really enjoying it, it is very different from the first book and I can definitely see it disappointing a lot of people who are expecting a direct sequel. As I said, the worldbuilding in it continues to be excellent and I would still recommend it because of how much I like Karen Lord but I would want to make sure people are aware of what they’re getting into. I did notice a lot of negative reviews based on the fact that people didn’t realise it was a sequel  and I can definitely understand that as although it could stand alone, it’s going to be a lot more confusing if you don’t already know the information about the civilisations we learn in the first book.

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