Review: Under Fortunate Stars – Ren Hutchings

Review: Under Fortunate Stars – Ren HutchingsUnder Fortunate Stars
by Ren Hutchings
Publisher: Solaris
Publication Date: May 10, 2022
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 480
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven's freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space, with little chance of rescue—until they encounter the research vessel Gallion, which claims to be from 152 years in the future.

The Gallion's chief engineer Uma Ozakka has always been fascinated with the past, especially the tale of the Fortunate Five, who ended the war with the Felen. When the Gallion rescues a run-down junk freighter, Ozakka is shocked to recognize the Five's legendary ship—and the Five's famed leader, Eldric Leesongronski, among the crew.

But nothing else about Leesongronski and his crewmates seems to match up with the historical record. With their ships running out of power in the rift, more than the lives of both crews may be at stake.

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4 stars icon aliens scifi icon

I picked this up because of the gorgeous cover, and I’m glad I did! It’s a really good, extremely satisfying time travel space opera.

“This is too strange to be a coincidence. It’s all connected somehow,” she said. “The engine problem, the Rift, that distress call… it’s all linked. And we need to figure out how if we want to get out of here.”

The Gallion, a corporate science ship, and its skeleton crew has been pressed into service to ferry a Felen ambassador to a conference when they suddenly end up in a null space where their engines are dead and communications don’t work. But there’s another ship in the so-called Rift with them: the Jonah, a legendary ship from more than 150 years in the past. The ship is famous for carrying the “Fortunate Five,” a group heroes who mysteriously stepped in and negotiated a last-minute end to the war between humans and the Felen. But the people on the Jonah are more a motley band of misfits than revered saviors, something the crews of both ships agree on. But with time running out, the two crews will have to work together to free themselves of the Rift… while also figuring out how to save humanity.

“Listen, when you grow up on a dust world, when you’ve seen the kind of stuff I’ve seen… you’ve got to look out for yourself first, understand? Nobody but yourself, and the handful of people you trust. If you can trust anyone at all.”

The story is told from the POVs of four main characters: Shaan, Jereth, Uma and Eldric Leesongronski. Shaan is the Facilities Coordinator on the Gallion (that is, the person who gives tours to visitors and deals with all of their questions). She’s happy to just do her job and is doing her best to forget about her past. Uma’s father worked at a Jonah museum, so she knows pretty much everything there is to know (or speculate about) the crew of the Jonah, especially Leesongronski, her personal hero. But you know what they say about meeting your heroes… Jereth is a charming rogue (think Han Solo) always looking for his next con. Eldric Leesongronski is Jereth’s straight man, a highly talented jump engineer who can’t seem to get his life, especially his personal relationships, in order.

I don’t usually like books with so many POVs, but this honestly worked for me. Each is distinct enough that I didn’t have any trouble keeping them separate, flaws and all. The scenes on the Gallion are mixed with chapters from each character’s past, revealing their backstories, failures and regrets, and how they each interconnect. The friendship between Jereth and Leesongronski is particularly fun, full of exasperated fondness and criminal hijinks. I also liked the interactions between Uma and Leesongronski as well, especially how Uma came to terms with her hero being, well, human. He’s not at all what she expected, but in some ways, he’s better. Watching him react to her near-encyclopediac knowledge of him (honestly, who wouldn’t be freaked out by “I’ve watched all of your lectures!”) was both hilarious and heart-achingly kind.

“Everything you’ve ever done, you’ve done with your whole heart. You throw yourself into things. And, yes, sometimes it’s a disaster… but sometimes it’s the only way to get it right. I trust you more than anyone else I’ve ever met.”

The characters and their relationships are the main focus, but the action isn’t neglected as well. There’s a lot of world building frontloaded into the book, though, so most of the action occurs in either the flashback chapters or towards the end of the book. As for my main con, it’s very much a “things happen for a reason” book. There’s a continuous series of, well, “fortunate” coincidences that lead to the exact group of people being on the ship at the right time, with the right components. It’s also a bit too neat how each character must come to grips with those regrets. But, in some ways, it feels right for this book. The overall message is of hope: that each person can overcome their past and make a better future together.

Overall, this book is a tremendous amount of fun. Recommended to anyone looking for a character-focused space opera who doesn’t mind a bit of fortunate plotting!

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