REVIEW: Space Unicorn Blues by T.J. Berry
A misfit crew race across the galaxy to prevent the genocide of magical creatures, in this unique science fiction debut.
Having magical powers makes you less than human, a resource to be exploited. Half-unicorn Gary Cobalt is sick of slavery, captivity, and his horn being ground down to power faster-than-light travel. When he’s finally free, all he wants is to run away in his ancestors’ stone ship. Instead, Captain Jenny Perata steals the ship out from under him, so she can make an urgent delivery. But Jenny held him captive for a decade, and then Gary murdered her best friend… who was also the wife of her co-pilot, Cowboy Jim. What could possibly go right?
Dear T.J. Berry,
I am conflicted about grading this book. It is well written in my opinion, but couple of things which thematically seemed important did not work for me. Actually, one of those things seemed very important and another was my personal turn off.
” When the murderer Gary Cobalt trotted into Bitter Blossom, he nearly gave himself as half- unicorn within thirty seconds. His prison-issued pants were hiked up so high that his hooves stuck out the bottom, chopping across the title, calling all sorts of attention. He’d hoped people would mistake him for a common faun, but the bartender let him know that he wasn’t fooled”.
This is how the book starts and very soon we learned that Gary spent ten years in Quag (a prison) for a murder that he may or may not have been committed.
We also learn (without dreaded info dumps) that humanity left a dying Earth some time ago and went into space where they met aliens called Bala and quickly decided to colonize Bala’s planets, treat them like complete crap, and then get into a war with them. The Bala may not have looked like humans, but they treated starving human colonists with nothing but kindness.
“It didn’t matter that the alien Bala had familiar shapes known to humans through centuries of myth and legend; unicorns, faeries and elves. Or that they offered to use their magic to help the colonists survive in their new home. The humans fired the opening shots in what would become a hundred years of war between the humans and the Bala.”
Now a lot of Bala planets are colonized and a lot of Bala are treated like slaves or worse. Unicorns are almost extinct and their horns are used as a fuel for the space ships and their blood for its healing properties.
Before his imprisonment, Gary and Jenny had been on different sides of the war. Sometime after the battle of Copernica, Jenny and a couple of her friends caught Gary and his ship and treated him and the ship very horribly. As blurb tells you Gary was tortured for two years and then Jenny made sure Gary was arrested for murder (I can’t tell you about the murder because spoilers).
Now Gary is out, comes to a certain bar, and attempts to win his ship back from the owner of the said bar. Due to certain events he is almost captured again and then miraculously this same Jenny and her teammate help him to get out. Jenny asks him to help make a delivery in space and then she will give him his ship back. She is sorry, you see.
Gary takes her up on her offer and off they go. What follows is a suspenseful space opera with our heroes in constant danger before they reach their goal.
So, what did not work? Firstly, I thought that the story injected some humor in very appropriate places; but as Gary is half unicorn I giggled when I thought I was not supposed to at times.
Most importantly, the reason why I bought this book in the first place was because I read author’s essay in “The Big Idea” on John Scalzi’s blog and that essay made me think about how hard it is to forgive and actually apologize, and thought it would be one of the main themes of the story. It didn’t feel that way at all. Oh, Jenny clearly struggles with what she did and I believed that her awkward words at the end were the result of a soul searching and all. Gary, on the other hand, just decides to accept the offer from his torturer and all is forgiven? What the actual heck?
I expected much more in depth development of the forgiveness theme and I do not think that happened here.