Jane Kamali, a handful of comrades from her past, and a telekinetic girl called Esa must fight their way through a galaxy full of dangerous conflicts, remnants of ancient technology, and other hidden dangers in hopes of preventing the Pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages.
The Stars Now Unclaimed takes what should be a predictable space opera—fight scenes with a bit of plot sprinkled in like glue—and creates something truly fun. Kamali and her compatriots’ sarcasm prevent the book from taking itself too seriously, breaking up the tension created by the near endless fight and chase scenes (there is barely a page in the book that is not at least affected by one or the other). The fight and chase scenes themselves are magnificent and compelling, careening the reader from tense pre-ambush jitters to the adrenaline of an attack and back again in just a few sentences. Williams’ combination of fantastic fight scenes and skillful character writing makes The Stars Now Unclaimed a compulsively readable treat for readers in search of a kinetic space opera ... while Williams writes a great story, it is an action story rather than a deep, contemplative look at the nature of the universe. That doesn’t mean that Williams shies away from some difficult questions. But it does mean that The Stars Now Unclaimed doesn’t get bogged down in the philosophical details. It moves quickly, hurtling its readers towards its exciting (and lengthy) climax. The Stars Now Unclaimed is a perfect pick for ... anyone who just wants a good romp through the galaxy with a thousand fighters on their tail.
A dazzling debut blends the best of small- and large- screen sf: the strong characterizations of Firefly, the space battles of The Expanse ... Along the way, they [the characters] encounter pirates, smugglers, soldiers, spies, and exploding spaceships in ever-increasing size and number. This cast of memorable characters, particularly Jane, who wears her heart on her sleeve, and the sacrifices they make to save the universe is not to be missed.
The Stars Now Unclaimed uses short, sharp chapters, its style reminiscent of a thriller. This works very effectively, because the action leaps forward: tense and well-paced, with just enough breathing room that the narrative never feels forced or overstuffed. The characterization is solid, sometimes intense, definitely believable. Jane is a compelling character, and Esa—well, Esa’s very much a teenager, and an engaging one at that. Williams builds the stakes all the way to an explosive climax and a very satisfying conclusion. I’m a little disappointed that it’s possible to read all the characters as straight, and also a little disappointed that Williams doesn’t show us a wider range of cultures, because space opera has great potential for playfulness and inventiveness around culture and norms. But this is a strikingly entertaining debut novel, an enjoyable space opera with military flair.