“Lou” by Molly Leasure

This novel does not follow the usual patterns. It is technically a Space Opera, but while conforming to one of the usual plot lines, it has a mood and a style all its own.

This is not your average space mission. The ship is a rambling wreck called ­­­TedRyan, and the crew and passengers are a conglomeration of misfits lucky enough to escape the global conflagration that is destroying Earth. The hero is a stowaway: a skinny former firefighter called Lou, That’s short for “Louse.” Everybody hates him for sneaking on the ship while their own relatives were left to die. The problem is, Lou believes them, which sets up his inner conflict.

Nobody is completely sane, and paranoia is the survival skill of the day. With this kind of setup, don’t expect a clear-cut conflict. The physical action occurs the way battles probably seem to most soldiers: brief flashes of action and wide-ranging emotion, details missing or forgotten, with sudden changes of fortune, often unexplained.

It is the same with the Sci-Fi setting. The worldbuilding is wide in scope but vague in detail at some points, crystal clear in others. The prerequisite hi-tech stuff is there, but very much in the background most of the time. The artificial intelligences seem as mixed up as the humans, so they count more as characters than tech. Coincidence drives the plot much more than science.

In this story, the emotional subtext is what’s going on. Your clues to the eventual outcome of the tale come from the feelings of the characters rather than how the battle is progressing. The story arc is concerned with the development of the attitudes of the secondary characters towards Lou, and how he reacts to the changing atmosphere as he takes on the role of reluctant hero to this band of weirdos.

It is a tale of redemption and forgiving, especially forgiving yourself. Despite all the mayhem, destruction and failure, a gleam of humanity wriggles through.

Recommended for Sci-Fi fans who like interesting characters and relationships and aren’t upset if the science doesn’t tick all the boxes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This review was originally published on Reedsy Discovery

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