Sunday, February 14, 2016

Book Review: Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell

Ishmael Wang lost everything when his mother died, including his right to continue living on Neris. Now, with the threat of deportment hanging over him, Ish has only one option: to sign on with a merchant ship, one of the solar clippers that transports cargo through the galaxy. He has no experience, no money, and no idea what he really wants to do with his life.
Suddenly, he finds himself aboard the Lois McKendrick, part of the life aboard a trading vessel. For the first time, Ish has friends and coworkers. Even if he doesn't have a clue what he wants to do, he discovers he has an aptitude for picking cargo. Maybe he'll make something of himself after all.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from
When his mother dies in a flitter crash, eighteen-year-old Ishmael Horatio Wang must find a job with the planet company or leave the system–and NerisCo isn’t hiring. With credits running low, and prospects limited, he has just one hope…to enlist for two years with a deep space commercial freighter. Ishmael, who only rarely visited the Neris Orbital, and has never been off-planet alone before, finds himself part of an eclectic crew sailing a deep space leviathan between the stars.
Join the crew of the SC Lois McKendrick, a Manchester built clipper as she sets solar sails in search of profit for her company and a crew each entitled to a share equal to their rating.
Quarter Share is set in a future that could be. Dates are given at the headings of chapters, both to help keep track of the time Ish has spent aboard and to keep track of the ship's course. All told, though, there's not a whole lot that is different in daily life with the technology Ish and the crew have. It's a refreshing mix of science fiction and modern practices, especially when the ship is in port. Lowell isn't relying on science to support the framework of the story. Rather, it's the other way around. It makes for a very real, engaging tale.
It's been some time since I read one of Lowell's works, and it's always a joy to sink into his writing. He writes with intelligence but not condescendingly. He's crisp and clear without being oversimplified. The writing is concise and compelling without detracting from the content. It's about the story, not about the words. Or perhaps, it's about the words, but they're the vessel through which the story is told. They're beautiful but don't compete with the content. It's a little hard to describe, really. I don't notice that I'm reading (or listening) when consuming Lowell's work. It's a beautiful example of the craft.
My Thoughts
From the onset, I was captivated by this book. Ishmael's forthright, deep introspection and clear view of events around him was engaging and made me want to know more about him and what would happen to him. Long before the space flight ever came into things, I was hooked. As things continued, I was stunned by the beauty of the writing, the amazing imagery Lowell created, and I was awash in a sense of wonder I wouldn't have thought possible in a book that reall doesn't have a whole lot of action. This book isn't fraught with battles and fights and arguments. Overall, it's a calm book, more given to possibilities and rationale than to disagreements. There's some definite comedic sense to it, and it's so easy to laugh along, or to just chuckle at goings on. This book is, to me, at least, peace. There's conflict, sure, but despite the lack of death threats or bodily danger, it's quite enjoyable. All in all, this book is a pleasure to read just because of how character-driven it is. Everything revolves around who Ishmael is, who his crewmates, friends, and other acquaintances are, and how they interact. The scenery is beautiful, despite being stuck on a ship for most of it. Lowell has made people into living scenery, and I marvel at the craftsmanship of the book. Honestly, it's one I groaned at having to put down.
Would I Recommend This Book? Definitely! Quarter Share sets a vivid scene, but more importantly, it's populated with realistic, colorful characters I would love to meet. It's easy to sink into this book and simply be part of it, to lose onesself in. I cannot rave enough about how I enjoyed this book like I would simply sitting and watching a sunset. I give Quarter Share an enterprising 5 of 5 stars.
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