Sometimes the Universe drops the exact right book into your life at the exact right time. Skeptics might call it a coincidence, but I see bigger forces at work, here. I mean, sure, the Universe, in all its wisdom, may have used Sue Bavey's sharp book recommendation skills in order to put this book in front of my eyes, knowing that I would trust her impeccable judgment and give it a shot. But regardless of how it crossed my path, I'm glad it did.
Orphan Planet by Rex Burke is absolutely the feel-good space adventure it sets out to be. From the first pages, it had me engaged and smiling. I wouldn't necessarily categorize it as a comedy, but there is a lot of wonderful humor throughout. Most of the humor comes from interactions between characters, which is my favorite type of humor to read or write. Whether it's socially inept crew members, a snarky AI, or equally snarky teenagers, the potential for laughs is everywhere, and Burke mines each situation to hilarious effect. But the "feel-good" in this space adventure isn't all about laughs. The heart of the story is the relationships Jordan, the main character, begins to develop with a group of teenagers he's charged with teaching. It's in those relationships that I see the Universe's mysterious ways as the reason I found this book when I did. My oldest son recently entered his teenage years, which is...quite a thing. It's a bit scary, to tell the truth. But this book provided some comfort in that regard. The way the author portrays these teenagers is refreshing. Each one has underlying teenage angst, but each one deals with it in their own unique way. It's clear to me that the author has experience as a father or a teacher because his portrayal of these kids was so obviously rooted in love and understanding. It made me, as a father, see through their eyes in a way. I can't say that this sci-fi book is going to change everything about the way I approach fatherhood, but it did open my eyes a little wider to the idea of compassion and understanding when dealing with kids at a tough time in their lives. For that alone, this book was well worth it. But sharing my specific reasons for loving it isn't necessary at all, because it's also a fun, extremely interesting adventure about the first ship to leave Earth in hopes to inhabit a new planet!
If I had to pick a favorite character, it would probably be Reeves, the aforementioned snarky AI that literally knows everything. First and foremost, he's hilarious, but he also displays a sweetness that is very endearing. He clearly cares for the group of kids, as Jordan finds out more and more throughout the story.
I don't know if I would categorize this book as "Cozy Sci-Fi," but that comes pretty close to describing its vibe. A lot happens, and the characters face real peril, but the overall feeling was one of kindness and cooperation. A feel-good space adventure to be sure!
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By the way, Sue Bavey is not only a book recommendation boffin (a very English word used in the above book, which I hope I'm using right), she's a wonderful author, too. Here is my review of her book, Lucky Jack.