Man, when I was growing up, I would have KILLED for a book like Jonathan L. Howard’s Katya’s World. I read a lot of adult sf because the stuff that was out there for younger readers was mostly just crap (or non-existent). There were a few exceptions, yes, but I found most of them either a. boring or b. condescending.
Katya’s World is neither of those things. I was hooked from the prologue on. In a nutshell, Earth set up numerous colonies on various worlds, populating them with people of the same racial/ethnic background to minimize tensions. Russalka is a water planet (as in, zero land masses) that has been colonized by people of Russian descent…which was then left to its own devices for a number of years while all communications from Earth just stopped. One day, the Grubbers (non-colonists) came back and said “Hey, thanks for keeping things going for us, we’ll just step back into our position of authority now,” but the Russalkin said “No way, man.”
Many people were killed on both sides, until one day the Earth contingent just pulled up and left.
This isn’t the story of that war, though (all of the above happens in the prologue) – it’s the story of Katya Kuriakova, a 15 (almost 16) year old girl that just received her navigation card and is about to take her first voyage actually working on her uncle’s submarine.
Look, there wouldn’t be a story if everything went according to plan, right? Right.
Kids on Russalka don’t have much of a chance to be kids. They have to grow up fast because their world is incredibly harsh and unforgiving. Katya may not yet be 16, but she’s what we would call incredibly mature for her age. Is she mature for the average Russalkin kid? Probably not. She’s smart, but I think most of the kids there had to grow up just as quickly as she did.
You want to know the best part about this book? It doesn’t talk down to its readers. It doesn’t say “Hey, my audience is young, so let me just explain everything in one giant infodump because I know you’re too stupid to understand it.”
No, it assumes that if you’re reading, you know enough to be getting on with, or can glean it from context (which is what I always thought was part of the fun of reading). There are a few times where things are explained (like the Siege Perilous reference, which I don’t even know that many adults would get), but it’s not done in a heavy-handed way – it’s an organic part of the story. I can not even begin to tell you how refreshing this was.
Second best part? NO ROMANCE! Yay! I’m so tired of every single YA book thinking that there has to be some sort of romantic entanglement to appeal to readers. Some of us don’t think it’s necessary. Some of us are exceedingly grateful when romance isn’t even part of the equation. Some of us finish reading a book like this and say “Yes. More of that, please.”
And really, that last sentence pretty much describes my feelings on this book. Yes. More of that, please.
I know there are more books planned for this world. Part of me really hopes that Howard will eventually write an adult series set in this same world, or perhaps even allow this series to age with its readers like Rowling did with Harry Potter.
(But seriously, I want an adult series about the early colonization efforts. Mr Howard, can you make that happen for me, please?)
You can find all of the sales dates and information for Katya’s World over at the Strange Chemistry website. It’ll be out November 6 in the US and November 8 worldwide. If you (or a young person you know) are into sf that happens to include submarines, pirates and other awesomeness, do yourself a favour and pre-order now. Seriously.
Super thanks to Strange Chemistry for the eARC. I loved this one. Everyone involved needs to keep up the good work.