The World Gives Way (Orbit, May 3, 2022). Cover design by Lisa Marie Pompilio
Here at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters there are few things as exciting as a good science fiction debut. (Maybe our Friday zeppelin races? Let’s call it a tossup.)
Marissa Levien’s The World Gives Way is one of the year’s strongest debuts. It made The New York Times list of Best Science Fiction Books of the Year, and Lacy Baugher at Culturess calls it “bleak, beautiful science fiction done right.” A.S. Moser at Strange Horizon says it’s “brave storytelling that uses the distorted mirror of science fiction to best effect.”
But my favorite review came from Martin Cahill at Tor.com, who calls it “incredible… The World Gives Way socks [readers] in the gut.” Here’s an excerpt.
Myrra is an indentured servant on a generation ship, boarded almost 200 years ago by the ruling wealthy and elite and staffed by the lower class, who sold their descendants into servitude, all for the chance to survive on the far-off world of Telos. Myrra has some decades left and having lived by herself, transferred from business to business, family to family, she is angry and bitter at her circumstances. But when the family she’s taking care of commits suicide because of the impending doom, leaving her with their orphaned child, Myrra’s problems begin to pale in comparison….
Tobias, meanwhile, comes at it from the other side of the coin. With dogged determination, this detective has worked for a decade to crawl out of the shadows of his family, formerly wealthy criminals now obsessed with status, money, and power. Taken in at a young age, away from the care and custody of his criminal parents, Tobias has worked his ass off to be taken seriously, especially as the adopted son of the police chief. When he’s tasked with finding Myrra, with all signs pointing to her culpability in the death of her former family…
The worldbuilding of the ship is marvelous and watching as Levien builds up this ship, how cities were named and how a coalition of nations bargained for this part and that; how she shows us the bones and blood of this world as we know a knife hurdles towards its heart is masterful, and you come to mourn the ship that is the world as much as you do Myrra and Tobias and those within it…
Levien’s The World Gives Way is an excellent debut, full of wonderful characterization, meticulous, empathetic worldbuilding, and a full heart, contemplating meaning, choices, unjust systems, and what we can do with the time given to us… A novel with empathy, bittersweetness, and a tremendous amount of heart, you’re not going to want to miss this one.
Read the whole thing here.
The World Gives Way was published in hardcover by Redhook on June 15, 2021. I bought the trade paperback, published by Orbit on May 3 of this year. It is 402 pages, priced at $17.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover was deigned by Lisa Marie Pompilio.
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