Review of Braking Day by Adam Oyebanji
by Adam Oyebanji
Something about the description of this book made me give it a chance even though I’ve been turned off generation ship stories lately. Perhaps it was the fact that the story is confined to a single generation, rather than attempting to span the multiple generations of the ship’s journey. Adam Oyebanji uses the setting to tell an interesting story of political intrigue and cover-ups, mystery, and some intense action. While there are parts that don’t quite cohere into the whole, overall, it’s a pretty good yarn.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC.
Braking Day takes place just as the Archimedes and its two sister ships near their destination of Tau Ceti. Ravinder (Ravi) Macleod is training to be an engineering officer, but his family name is already a strike against him. While dealing with this prejudice, Ravi also starts to notice that not all is right with the Archimedes. Certain things don’t add up—but why? Is this sabotage by the BonVoyers—a protest group that doesn’t want the fleet to colonize an alien world, extirpating its indigenous life? Or is there something even more sinister afoot, something that has perhaps been hidden from Ravi and the rest of his generation?
I can’t go into too many details here without immediately getting into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say, I predicted the twist that happens halfway through the novel, and the final reveal was a little disappointing. Nevertheless, I appreciate how Oyebanji takes the time to construct credible, competing belief systems stemming from the history on Earth—namely, how some people embraced implants (hence becoming cyborgs) while rejecting artificial intelligences, and others did the opposite. Everything that happens, and the cold war situation that drives the largest conflict of this story, makes sense from a narrative perspective, and I appreciate that.
I also liked that Oyebanji took the time to discuss the ethics around humanity spreading out among the stars. Do we have the right to displace indigenous life on another world simply so we can colonize it and make our mark? The fact that there are different perspectives on this from characters in the novel allows the reader to grapple with the complexity. While there is a twinge of dystopia here—Ravi is often struggling to afford the water rations to do things like shower, and it’s clear that the closed-loop system of the fleet is nearing its end of life—this novel is ultimately optimistic about the chances of a generation ship succeeding in its journey. I love how Oyebanji portrays the society that has sprung up on these three vessels, along with Ravi’s critiques of it.
Despite my disappointment with some parts of the reveal, I don’t want to be too harsh, because Braking Day kept me reading. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I couldn’t put it down. Nevertheless, I really wanted to find out the solutions to the various mysteries that Ravi had started to unravel.
On that note, without spoiling, let me praise this book for wrapping up those mysteries by the end. This could easily be the start of a series, but if it is not, it works fine as a standalone novel as well. There are enough dangling plot threads to start a new story—either with the same characters or perhaps their descendants—but the questions raised in this book get answered. This is a delicate balance to achieve, and Oyebanji nails it.
Overall, I would characterize this novel as fun, fraught with danger, and fulfilling in its promises to the reader.