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Book Notes: Ocean's Godori

I am not the biggest sci-fi reader. I did adore Becky Chamber’s Monk and Robot novellas (Psalm for the Wild-Built and Prayer for the Crown-Shy), though I have yet to try her full-length novels. I have a soft spot in my heart for all things Star Wars. I do my best when people ask for recommendations, but I have much more knowledge (and opinions) in fantasy. So here are the features that initially sold me on Ocean’s Godori by Elaine U. Cho:

The gorgeous cover.

A misfit crew.

The promise of humor.

When I then found out the author of this debut novel is also Pacific Northwesterner and a former bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company, I was even more interested to give it a try. I am so glad I did.

Ocean Yoon is a disgraced pilot who is part of a crew in the lower echelons of the Alliance space program. She’s Korean, and from a long line of the famed female free divers of Jeju, but she’s never felt truly a part of the culture she comes from. When a job her captain takes on goes sideways, and Ocean’s best friend Teo is accused of murder, the stakes suddenly climb very high. Ocean is torn between loyalty to her friend or obedience to her captain. With a diverse cast of characters and a plot packed both with action and quiet pockets of introspection, this was one fantastically wild ride.

Cho's cinematic writing unfurled into my imagination. I could easily visualize the speeder chases, the fight scenes, and Ocean piloting her ship with all the finesse and verve of a race car driver. Equally as vivid are the descriptions of food shared among the crew, the drops of rain pattering on a glass roof, Ocean dancing on a subway platform. (Side note, when you get to moment you find out the song she’s dancing to, even if you know it already, queue it up -- it is utterly transporting). Ocean's fellow crew members are a lovely group of found family, minus the captain. And the crew of raiders that enters the scene is similar, with a side of snarky complexity. It’s a delight to watch them play off each other, even while it’s hard to know who to trust. And yes, there are funny moments galore, even amidst the fleeing for their lives from bounty-hunters.

Ocean’s Godori would make an interesting pairing with The Ministry of Time, as both books have a lot to say about colonialism and cultural belonging. If you’re looking to fill a Summer Book Bingo square, this would work for Friendship, Fantastical, or Something that Scares You (if sci-fi scares you as a genre). Of course, you can also use it for Suggested by an Independent Bookseller!

-- Lori