Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Review: The Galaxy Game

Book Cover: The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord
Published 6 January 2015 by Del Rey
Source: eARC from NetGalley

On the verge of adulthood, Rafi attends the Lyceum, a school for the psionically gifted. Rafi possesses mental abilities that might benefit people . . . or control them. Some wish to help Rafi wield his powers responsibly; others see him as a threat to be contained. Rafi’s only freedom at the Lyceum is Wallrunning: a game of speed and agility played on vast vertical surfaces riddled with variable gravity fields.

Serendipity and Ntenman are also students at the Lyceum, but unlike Rafi they come from communities where such abilities are valued. Serendipity finds the Lyceum as much a prison as a school, and she yearns for a meaningful life beyond its gates. Ntenman, with his quick tongue, quicker mind, and a willingness to bend if not break the rules, has no problem fitting in. But he too has his reasons for wanting to escape.

Now the three friends are about to experience a moment of violent change as seething tensions between rival star-faring civilizations come to a head. For Serendipity, it will challenge her ideas of community and self. For Ntenman, it will open new opportunities and new dangers. And for Rafi, given a chance to train with some of the best Wallrunners in the galaxy, it will lead to the discovery that there is more to Wallrunning than he ever suspected . . . and more to himself than he ever dreamed.

My Thoughts

Rafi has been sent to the Lyceum, a school for young people with psi powers. There his skills will be assessed to determine just what they are and whether he has the appropriate discipline and control to avoid being a danger to others. If Rafi had lived on a planet other than Cygnus Beta, there'd probably be no concern at all, but on his planet, there are few psionically gifted people.

As soon as he can, Rafi removes himself from the school—and from his planet. He travels with fellow classmate Ntenman to Purnatam, a planet mostly peopled by the Ntshune and where psi usage is common. There's something extraordinary taking place in the Academes of Punartam, and Rafi discovers that he has an unexpected role to play as tensions between the rival star-faring civilizations play out.

It seemed that it was taking me a long time to read The Galaxy Game. For much of the first part of the book I felt confused. I was ⅔ of the way into the book before I discovered that it was the second book in a series! I don't know if my disorientation was due to not having read the first book or not. I do know that as I read, I had to continually reevaluate everything. I found myself lost in the universe in which it takes place, lost as to who the characters were, and lost in the story itself.

But, as I read the final portion of The Galaxy Game things suddenly shifted into place. I did go back and read the prologue again and this time it made perfect sense—no confusion at all. I then returned to my place in the book and read eagerly to the end. From this experience, I think it is likely that my initial bewilderment was due to jumping into the series in the middle. I have placed the first book, The Best of All Possible Worlds, onto my wishlist at the library. I'm taken with the universe that Ms. Lord has envisioned and hope she continues to visit it in future books.

I initially debated between 3 and 4 stars when it came to rating this book. Since I don't want to penalize the book because I hadn't read the first in the series, I've decided to rank it as 4 stars—I really liked it. I think it's important to emphasize that this book does not stand alone well. To get the most out of it, I think it would be essential to read The Best of All Possible Worlds first.


Note that I received a free copy of The Galaxy Game from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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