Karen Lord’s ‘The Galaxy Game’: power tripping
Karen Lord’s new science-fiction novel “The Galaxy Game” follows the adventures of Rafi, a talented teenager whose athletic, acrobatic and mental skills in an adventure game take on a new and revolutionary dimension.
Special to The Seattle Times
‘The Galaxy Game’
by Karen Lord
Ballantine, 336 pp., $15
This sequel to Afro-Caribbean author Karen Lord’s second science-fiction novel, 2013’s “The Best of All Possible Worlds,” turns its gaze away from that book’s heroine to focus on her nephew, Rafi, a troublemaking telepathic teenager on the run across several planets. Though he rejects his criminal father’s manipulative psychic tricks, Rafi can’t help finding himself at the center of influential networks in several star systems, guiding powerful people’s reactions to interstellar trade wars and revolution. His Aunt Grace and her Spock-ish husband Dllenakh take official positions within the rebel government, but their work pales in importance compared to Rafi’s play.
Fleeing the oppressive administrators of his high school, Rafi joins a team engaged in Wallrunning, the “galaxy game” of the book’s title, diving, flipping and scrambling across wildly varying artificial gravitational fields. Up and down reverse without warning in a neat metaphor for the unpredictability of life and the arbitrary nature of spatial orientation offworld. But soon the metaphor takes on a new dimension, as Rafi discovers that Wallrunners can use their athletic skills to challenge and overcome a monopoly on travel between planets.
Like the artificial gravity in which Wallrunners play, “The Galaxy Game’s” viewpoint shifts with deeply involving unpredictability. Readers jump from Rafi’s naive jubilance and hard-won popularity to the crafty internal monologues of his experienced friend Ntenman, from glass-sided academic towers full of scheming researchers to the oceanic berths of sentient starships, all in a clear-eyed whirl of logic. This novel is a satisfying exercise in being off-balance, a visceral lesson in how to fall forward and catch yourself in an amazing new place.
Seattle author Nisi Shawl reviews science fiction and fantasy for The Seattle Times.