Review: Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings

Book: Under Fortunate Stars

Author: Ren Hutchings

Pages: 480

Source: NetGalley

Publisher: Solaris

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera, LGBTQ+

Publication Date: May 12, 2022

Storygraph Summary:

A modern, progressive homage to classic space opera stories, with flawed heroes and time travel

Stranded in the Dark

In the final throes of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s junk freighter breaks down in a strange rift in deep space, with little chance of rescue – until they encounter a science vessel that claims to be from 152 years in the future.

Engineer Uma Ozakka has always been fascinated with the past, especially the desperate peace mission that ended the war with the Felen and ushered in a new age of collaboration – a mission Keeven’s first mate Leesongronski is supposed to be leading right now.

If Ozakka is right, more than the fates of two ships hangs in the balance…

My Review:

I was given an advanced reader’s copy of Under Fortunate Stars by Solaris via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Solaris!

Under Fortunate Stars is a timeline twisting, character driven, space opera-inspired story about two ships adrift in a bubble in space called the Rift. One of these ships, the Jonah, carries a con artist, a mathematical genius, a would be highjacker, a genetic engineer, and the ship’s engineer. They are on a desperate trip to escape a generations-long war between humanity and an alien race known as the Felen when their ship is sucked into the Rift. With their engines knocked out and power almost gone, they send out a desperate S.O.S. without much hope of rescue or escape.

The Jonah‘s message is received by a science research vessel known as the Gallion. It too has been sucked into the Rift and had its engines knocked out. Luckily, they have enough power to last the skeleton crew a while to figure out an escape plan. What they don’t understand, though, is how a ship that was supposed to be destroyed 152 years ago is stuck here in the Rift with them.

Naturally, the crew of the Gallion are skeptical if the Jonah is even real, but they manage to haul it aboard using a concentrated tractor beam. Then things get even more strange and unbelievable. Aboard the ship are at least three members of a hallowed group known as The Fortunate Five – the saviors of humanity and Felen alike who managed to negotiate a peace between the two warring races that has lasted the past 152 years.

There are two main conflicts in Under Fortunate Stars: 1) How will everyone escape the Rift and get back where they belong and 2) Are the crew of the Jonah really The Fortunate Five? The plot of the story primarily revolves around these two issues and what each member of the respective ship crews believes to be true. Ren Hutchings uses a series of flashbacks in each of the main characters’ lives to explore their histories and their personalities. These flashbacks are also used to expose just how many coincidences went into bringing the crews of these two ships together at that specific time.

The entire story is one glorious time loop that keeps revealing more of itself. It made me think that it didn’t necessarily matter what these characters did because eventually the end result would be the same. They were literally making history happen, and it was such a fun story to read. Even though I knew that certain events had to eventually take place given the clues in the beginning, how those events would take place and how the characters would get there was a mystery slowly unraveled throughout the book.

I would say this was a much more character focused story even though it was driven by those two main plot points. The reader really gets to know each of the main characters as the chapters shift focus between them. I deeply cared about these characters by the end of the book, and I wanted to see them succeed and be happy.

There were only a few criticisms I have of the story. I would have liked there to be more interaction or explanation of the alien race, the Felen. There are only a few interactions with one Felen in the entire story, and that character is never named since it’s an ambassador on its way to humanity’s capital planet Etraxis. I know there may not have been time to explore them more, but I was interested enough to want to know more.

My other criticism has to do with the ending, and you will just have to read the book to know what I mean. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but a character has what is essentially a preordained death. The death is never explained, and it made me really sad that it still happened because I really cared about this character by the end.

One final note. I loved the LGBTQ+ representation in this story! I feel like this is how the world should be. None of it was explicitly commented upon by any of the characters. Each character just loved who they loved and was attracted to whom they wanted and that was the end of it. No labels. Nothing. Now, I understand that labels are very helpful for some people, and I don’t think we should just stop using them. It was just nice to take a peek at a world that didn’t need them at all.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I gave Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings four out of five stars. This story was fun to read, and the suspense and high stakes of the characters trying to use all their skills to survive kept me turning the pages. I loved all of the characters, and the only reason I didn’t give this a full five stars is because of unexplained character death at the end. If you’re looking for a space opera with romance, high stakes, and dash of mystery then give this book a read!

Have you read Under Fortunate Stars? What did you think? What are some other sci-fi books you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

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