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Nophek Gloss

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When a young man's planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy by debut author Essa Hansen, for fans of Revenger and Children of Time. Caiden's planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that When a young man's planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy by debut author Essa Hansen, for fans of Revenger and Children of Time. Caiden's planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans. He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.


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When a young man's planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy by debut author Essa Hansen, for fans of Revenger and Children of Time. Caiden's planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that When a young man's planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy by debut author Essa Hansen, for fans of Revenger and Children of Time. Caiden's planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans. He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.

30 review for Nophek Gloss

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sunyi Dean

    Caveat: This is not your usual book review; I've included some "behind the scenes" musings for once. If you prefer my usual reviews, this may not be your cup of tea. Okay, caveats out of the way--let's go! There's a lot of mutual back-scratching (praise my book, and I'll praise your book!) which goes on in publishing, both self and trade. I don't mean this in a derogatory sense, because it comes from a good place: earnest writers genuinely trying to help out other writer buddies. But I mention it Caveat: This is not your usual book review; I've included some "behind the scenes" musings for once. If you prefer my usual reviews, this may not be your cup of tea. Okay, caveats out of the way--let's go! There's a lot of mutual back-scratching (praise my book, and I'll praise your book!) which goes on in publishing, both self and trade. I don't mean this in a derogatory sense, because it comes from a good place: earnest writers genuinely trying to help out other writer buddies. But I mention it here because I think, if I don't, my review will look suspect. By way of explanation, I'm one of Essa's critique partners, and under normal circumstances I would fully expect anyone reading this review to roll their eyes and say, "Of COURSE you think it's good!" The thing is, it's actually the other way around. NOPHEK GLOSS won me over on its own merits, all while being massively at a disadvantage. Let me explain further--let's rewind three years. I was still 29, and muddling painfully through my first (truly terrible) novel. It was finished, but not very good, and I was struggling to find beta reader swaps for it. Beta reader swaps are where you contact another writer, usually someone you don't know, and agree to critique each other's books. The critique process is important for everyone, because humans learn best through teaching; when you critique others' work, you're teaching yourself to get better, too, as well as benefiting from fresh eyes on your MS. But the problem with beta swap partners is they're often not very good experiences. Either you're a novice, or the other person is, or you both are, or your critique styles just don't match--hundreds of things that can go wrong, meaning one or both writers abandons the swap. Think about dating online: it's probably a bit like that, but far more annoying and far less rewarding. My early beta swap experiences were pretty terrible. The books I was swapping for appalled me. I'm sure my book appalled other people, too. Somehow, I blundered into Essa. We were in lot of the same FB groups: trawling for betas, asking questions, sometimes giving advice; we both wrote "speculative fiction" and aspired to have a literary edge. (Whether we achieve that or not, I leave to readers to decide.) Eventually--to cut a lot of pointless detail short--we ended up swapping books. The book I swapped for was, of course, Nophek Gloss. I started reading. This was pretty good! I kept reading, page after page, making my way through the chapters, leaving notes or nitpicks as they struck me, musing on sections, asking questions. Even after a couple chapters in, I'd already had the realisation that this was the first manuscript I'd ever beta-read which felt like a real book. Like it could actually get picked up and produced by a publisher. The quality of the writing, the micro tension, the descriptions, the ideas, the characters and characterisations; you could just FEEL it. This book was going to make it. That very early version of NOPHEK was only 22 chapters long, and much less polished than the novel you are about to embark on (assuming you are reading this review first, that is.) Through the following three years, as we queried agents, swapped more critiques, wrote different books, rewrote old books, and found rep, Essa continued working on NOPHEK to make the novel more refined and eloquent. All the same qualities that early draft had were still present, just expanded and magnified. In short, I don't rate the book highly because I know its author; I know its author, because I rated the book highly. And therefore, when I say that my review is unbiased, I am genuinely being truthful. For the novel itself, I will simply say that NOPHEK GLOSS is--to me--a coming of age (bildungsroman) story which is pitched at adults, rather than teens. It explores the effects of growing up too fast--literally, thanks to technology--in response to trauma, and the psychological cost of suppressing pain or loss in pursuit of our goals. And yes, there are lots of other cool things too: the bubble universe stuff, the sheer variety of alien culture and life, the creative and playful interaction with biotech, the ship that creates universes, etc etc. But I will leave most of that for readers to discover, if they wish. There are many surprises and I'd feel bad spoiling them in-depth. I hope that you will find Nophek Gloss as surprising and delightful as I first did, all those years ago. PS - this is not available for sale yet. I read an ARC of the recent version, in addition to earlier versions.  PPS - For those interested in rep, the MC is written as ace-spec, and one of the supporting characters is neurodivergent (#ownvoices ND.) Some very good trans and nb rep throughout, too.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nick Borrelli

    NOPHEK GLOSS is such a difficult book to categorize. This is a very good thing mind you. Yes it contains some amazing space opera moments, yes it also dabbles in a good amount of hard SF, absolutely does it touch on some classic science fiction elements as well. So there's a lot to digest in the not quite 500 pages of this incredibly entertaining story. But in the end what it ends up being is a book that makes you care about what happens to the main character Caiden and those around him as they NOPHEK GLOSS is such a difficult book to categorize. This is a very good thing mind you. Yes it contains some amazing space opera moments, yes it also dabbles in a good amount of hard SF, absolutely does it touch on some classic science fiction elements as well. So there's a lot to digest in the not quite 500 pages of this incredibly entertaining story. But in the end what it ends up being is a book that makes you care about what happens to the main character Caiden and those around him as they battle some of the most vile enemies imaginable in the Overseers. The heart of the plot is one that is true of most successful stories, edge of your seat excitement coupled with an emotional and well-delivered central conflict. In the case of NOPHEK GLOSS, we have a revenge plot line that kicks ass and compels you to devour each chapter to see if Caiden gets that final justice that he so desperately seeks. Along the way we get treated to some off the charts SF technology and it is utterly breathtaking. Most notably, the spacecraft that is so stunningly depicted on the front cover of NOPHEK GLOSS. Not since Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy have we been treated to sentient ships like this where they are essentially every bit as much of a living and thinking being as the humans or aliens who travel inside them. Another aspect of what makes these ships so damn cool is their ability to create their own universes and also allow for quick travel from one to another, something that also makes them a highly desirable commodity and a terribly dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. Another imaginative concept is Nophek Gloss itself. What is it you ask? I have heard some describe it as similar to the spice Melange in the Dune novels, and sure I can see where those parallels would be made somewhat. However, there's much more to this mysterious substance and the way of obtaining it is much different than how they harvested spice in Herbert's desert setting of Arrakis. The myriad of diverse aliens and otherworldly creatures that you will encounter the further you get into the book only serve to add to the brilliance of this special galaxy-spanning opening entry in Hansen's The Graven series. The fact that this is Essa Hansen's debut novel is unbelievably impressive in my opinion. To be able to pack this kind of personal story into such a technologically genre bending canvas and have it work so seamlessly is quite an achievement indeed. I really didn't want this book to end and I found myself kind of slowing up and savoring those last few chapters. Luckily for us, this is only the beginning for this series and this talented breakout author. I just hope we don't have to wait too long for the follow up. If you love science fiction that is big on technology and world-building yet doesn't skimp in the least when it comes to an intriguing story, you need to read NOPHEK GLOSS as soon as you possibly can. It reminded me of Iain M. Banks at his finest in its quality and boundary pushing and I came away feeling that I had just read an author merely scratching the surface of a blossoming career. I would liken it to seeing a great musician early on in their career in a small intimate theater. At the end of the show you walk out smiling because you are part of those who are right now in on the secret, but are also dead certain that the next time you see them will be at a giant arena tour in front of screaming hordes. I for one am really looking forward to it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    ‘Author, swordswoman, and falconer. Sound designer for SFF films at Skywalker Sound, with credits in movies such as Doctor Strange and Avengers: Endgame,’ reads Essa Hansen’s Meet the Author page. With such a varied resume, it’s small wonder that her debut novel Nophek Gloss crackles with fresh, diverse creativity. It is hard science fiction at its best, flush with rich themes and sharp innovation. Hansen tends to keep the book’s descriptions concise, yet it took me twice as long to read as other ‘Author, swordswoman, and falconer. Sound designer for SFF films at Skywalker Sound, with credits in movies such as Doctor Strange and Avengers: Endgame,’ reads Essa Hansen’s Meet the Author page. With such a varied resume, it’s small wonder that her debut novel Nophek Gloss crackles with fresh, diverse creativity. It is hard science fiction at its best, flush with rich themes and sharp innovation. Hansen tends to keep the book’s descriptions concise, yet it took me twice as long to read as other books of its length as I often paused to re-read passages in order to fully digest each sentence. This allowed for me to visualize it all in my mind, savoring each scene like a chef’s tasting menu. Speaking of menus, make sure you have a full stomach before diving into this one, as there’s plenty of mouth-watering space foods that might make you want to snack-read to an unhealthy degree. Or so I’ve heard. The book covers a lot of ground, approaching various topics with care. Inclusivity and fluidity are underlying themes, and gender identity is often spotlighted as one character is able to shift genders and appearances at will. Body augmentation elevates these discussions into new areas to consider. Other areas the story addresses include examining maturity of the body versus the mind, doing bad things for the right reasons, deferring versus coping with grief, fear and acceptance, and the advancement of technology versus the shortcomings of humanity. But don’t get hung up on just the heavy themes. There’s plenty of badass action scenes, eldritch beings, morphing coats, pleachroic everything, and a bleeping spaceship capable of creating its own universe on command. For as detailed a world as Hansen creates, she is careful with exposition. I was not aware there was a glossary included, but I highly recommend avoiding it unless absolutely necessary, as I had much more fun unpacking the intricacies of the story’s multiverse on my own. Scene settings and descriptions are often no more than a line or two, delivered in a subtle, yet decorous prose. Complex life forms are rendered with just enough sketches of detail to balance with the user’s imagination. Scenes of lilies make repeated visits. ‘Shipping and fan art is inevitable. There were a couple of plot points where I felt the characters’ behaviors were a bit of a stretch. One or two instances I asked myself if I thought those moments felt genuine. There is also a lot of information to absorb, between its world-building, characters, science terminology, and other topics. It is not the easiest of reads, but the more time you spend in its multiverse, the more rewarding it will be. Plus, this book is just so damn COOL. I mean… that cover, right? Mike Heath’s art and Lauren Panepinto’s design sets the tone for the entire story: sleek, futuristic, and grim, with promises of light peeking through its dark tone. I don’t think Nophek Gloss is a book for everyone, as it leans heavily into its themes that some may find a bit too grim or divisive. But if you’re like me—someone who thrives on challenging and imaginative stories that push the boundaries of thought and imagination—then this debut is a can’t-miss.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Nophek Gloss is the hard to pronounce title if the first volume of a brand new science fiction series. The title refers to a little gem that comes from the skull of a rare animal and powers spaceships. Like the spice in Dune, the gloss is valuable beyond imagination. It's a coming of age novel, although the hero of the story bargains to age six years immediately and kind of gets to skip adolescence. Of course, like with many space operas, he is welcomed into a crew of misfits and there are space Nophek Gloss is the hard to pronounce title if the first volume of a brand new science fiction series. The title refers to a little gem that comes from the skull of a rare animal and powers spaceships. Like the spice in Dune, the gloss is valuable beyond imagination. It's a coming of age novel, although the hero of the story bargains to age six years immediately and kind of gets to skip adolescence. Of course, like with many space operas, he is welcomed into a crew of misfits and there are space stations filled with all manner of beings. Within the squares of the chess game being played out are genetic design, mind control, and ships that ply routes not just between between planets, but between universes where different physical rules apply. Nevertheless, for this reader, it never quite achieved believability within its universe-building. That lack of realism detracted from an interesting book that began with incredible excitement as the main character struggles to survive among hungry beasts and marauding slavers.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)

    3.5 Stars This novel started out incredibly strong with an opening sequence that was brutal and devastating. It is always fantastic to find an author who isn't afraid to write something dark. Beyond the beginning, the story mostly read like a fairly conventional space opera. It followed the major tropes of the subgenre, leaning hard into the idea of found family.  I loved the diversity among the aliens species. I particularly appreciated the natural inclusion of diversity including gender fluidity 3.5 Stars This novel started out incredibly strong with an opening sequence that was brutal and devastating. It is always fantastic to find an author who isn't afraid to write something dark. Beyond the beginning, the story mostly read like a fairly conventional space opera. It followed the major tropes of the subgenre, leaning hard into the idea of found family.  I loved the diversity among the aliens species. I particularly appreciated the natural inclusion of diversity including gender fluidity and the normalization of neutral pronouns. I am not personally the biggest fan of naive children in my stories so I was happy that Caiden matured relatively quickly. The characters were fairly well developed, although I never became particularly attached to anyone. The world building in this universe was actually one of the most unique aspects of this space opera. The multiverse travel felt like a strange choice and didn't quite make sense from a scientific perspective. My favourite aspect of the worldbuilding was easily the alien creatures. The beasts felt so uniquely alien, yet the descriptions conjured such vivid images in my mind. Overall, I enjoyed this one and would recommend to one to scifi readers looking for a new space opera adventure. Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, Orbit Books.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Mammay

    This might be the best debut of 2020. It certainly has my vote in that regard at this point. The sheer imagination in this book is staggering. It reminds me of the most imaginative work of CJ Cherryh in that regard, and if you know me you know that's some seriously high praise. I would read chapters and chapters of just somebody walking through this multiverse describing what they see--it's that amazing. There's so much to like: The complex species and their interplay, the immense and varied env This might be the best debut of 2020. It certainly has my vote in that regard at this point. The sheer imagination in this book is staggering. It reminds me of the most imaginative work of CJ Cherryh in that regard, and if you know me you know that's some seriously high praise. I would read chapters and chapters of just somebody walking through this multiverse describing what they see--it's that amazing. There's so much to like: The complex species and their interplay, the immense and varied environments, and technology like nothing I've ever seen. It blew me away. Layer onto that a group of wonderful characters. The crew feels like a Becky Chambers novel crossed with Firefly, filled with complex relationships and the love and pain of found family. The villains are well-crafted and believable, fueled by realistic motivations. The book transcends good vs. evil and dives into a murky gray of colliding ethoi where villains align with heroes for a purpose and then shift back to suit their own designs, and the heroes cross their own boundaries in pursuit of their goals.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Holly (The Grimdragon)

    3.5 Stars~ "Worst fears and greatest hopes floated by in whispers like windy grass.." Nophek Gloss is the debut novel from Essa Hansen, who happens to be a sound designer at Skywalker Sound. So rad! Beginning with a bang, this space opera leads 14-year-old Caiden across a multiverse with some definite Red Rising vibes. It's a revenge story, one with plenty of trauma. There's also strange tech, misfit aliens and an adorable color-changing creature known as a whipkin! The world is populated by a large 3.5 Stars~ "Worst fears and greatest hopes floated by in whispers like windy grass.." Nophek Gloss is the debut novel from Essa Hansen, who happens to be a sound designer at Skywalker Sound. So rad! Beginning with a bang, this space opera leads 14-year-old Caiden across a multiverse with some definite Red Rising vibes. It's a revenge story, one with plenty of trauma. There's also strange tech, misfit aliens and an adorable color-changing creature known as a whipkin! The world is populated by a large cast of characters, including genderfluid, ace and neurodiverse rep. Yes, yes, YES! Representation is so important. And found family? You know that is my jam! I just never quite fell all the way in love with any of the characters. The complexities of a found family were mostly there, although I'm hoping Hansen will dive deeper into the relationships as the trilogy goes on. This veered into the instalove trope at times because of the "found or forced" subject matter, but with a group of friends instead. Caiden isn't my favorite to lead this eclectic cast, but I feel as though it's because he is mostly an irritating teenager in this introduction. I have no doubt in my mind that he will be one that evolves and shows dynamic character growth by the time the series is finished. Overall, I dug this and will be keeping an eye on any news of the sequel! CW: Cruelty and abuse towards animals, child abuse, violence, trauma. (Thanks to Orbit Books for sending me a copy!)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Nophek Gloss is a gritty debut space opera set in a complex world and following a character coming of age while dealing with severe trauma. This is one that's a little challenging to review because I think how much you will like it is really going to depend on taste. Objectively, I thought the world was incredibly inventive and detailed, with explanations woven throughout the narrative rather than dumped at the beginning. The technology is fascinating. It also includes a diverse cast of characte Nophek Gloss is a gritty debut space opera set in a complex world and following a character coming of age while dealing with severe trauma. This is one that's a little challenging to review because I think how much you will like it is really going to depend on taste. Objectively, I thought the world was incredibly inventive and detailed, with explanations woven throughout the narrative rather than dumped at the beginning. The technology is fascinating. It also includes a diverse cast of characters from human and alien races, including one who is gender fluid and expresses that fluidity with the aid of tech. There are complex politics, twists and turns, and a found family of damaged people that may be reminiscent of Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows but as (mostly) traumatized grownups. On the other hand, I want to talk about my experience reading this. In terms of pace, I found it to be slow going (especially toward the beginning) because we are learning a LOT about the world, and our MC is a teen boy who knows virtually nothing about the outside world and must come to terms with it after a violent and traumatic event. Things do pick up, but despite a few moments of levity and a semi-hopeful ending, this book feels very dark and heavy most of the time. It's a lot. There is a great deal of death, trauma, violence, injury, abuse, (including violence toward animals) and it can be a lot to deal with emotionally. Added to that, I found the MC to be incredibly frustrating. He's an angry, impulsive teen boy who does a lot of dumb things. Which might be accurate to the age, but this is decidedly not a YA story and I think I have less patience for that in adult science fiction. So....I think this book is impressive and a strong debut, but I also struggled to get through it and often didn't enjoy the experience of reading it. Your mileage is going to vary depending on what you like as a reader and what you are looking for. I received an advance copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own. Content warnings for all the things.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    I'm sorry to report this book just didn't work for me. The first part of the book is a bit of a slog, awash with unfamiliar terms and flooded with complex descriptions of new things, people, and places. I was impressed with the variety and abnormality of this strange multiverse, but I struggled to visualize it all. Left adrift, I had trouble paying attention. Then we have our main character, Caiden. He's a 14-year old ricocheting through life after surviving a horrible, cataclysmic event: a genoc I'm sorry to report this book just didn't work for me. The first part of the book is a bit of a slog, awash with unfamiliar terms and flooded with complex descriptions of new things, people, and places. I was impressed with the variety and abnormality of this strange multiverse, but I struggled to visualize it all. Left adrift, I had trouble paying attention. Then we have our main character, Caiden. He's a 14-year old ricocheting through life after surviving a horrible, cataclysmic event: a genocide that killed everyone he knew and loved. I have to say that his revenge story really stressed me out. His found family tells him at every turn that seeking vengeance isn't the answer, but he ignores them (teenagers...gotta love em). This is not to say there's no basis for his hatred, of course, but it chokes the story before it even gets off the ground, in my opinion. Overall, the pacing was slow, and even action sequences didn't draw my focus. I would have preferred any of Caiden's crew members as a protagonist because they all seemed to have interesting backstory and nuanced personality. Sadly, their presence in the cast wasn't enough to pull me along. When Caiden left them behind to fulfill his bloodthirsty quest, I lost my will to stick around. DNF at 53%.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for this ARC. 3-3.5 stars. Caiden and his family and all the other individuals on his settlement are transported to a different planet when the bovine herds they’re caring for all die. The humans are almost immediately slaughtered by ravenous, terrifying creatures. Caiden manages to evade them and ends up hiding in a spaceship that's marooned on the planet. His best friend Leta doesn’t appear to be as lucky, and in addition to his parents, Caiden assumes she Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for this ARC. 3-3.5 stars. Caiden and his family and all the other individuals on his settlement are transported to a different planet when the bovine herds they’re caring for all die. The humans are almost immediately slaughtered by ravenous, terrifying creatures. Caiden manages to evade them and ends up hiding in a spaceship that's marooned on the planet. His best friend Leta doesn’t appear to be as lucky, and in addition to his parents, Caiden assumes she, too, has been ripped apart by the animals. While aboard the ship, he discovers why the toothy creatures, called nophek, are so much more important than Caiden and everyone he knew—there’s a strange crystal in the creatures’ brains, which Caiden discovers is called gloss. Gloss, it turns out, is used to generate power, so Caiden uses the crystal to bargain himself off-planet with his rescuers, who are a motley band of aliens and humans, who call themselves Passengers. They leave in the spaceship, which, it turns out, can create a multiverse around it, allowing it to transit other multiverses and environments. Though relatively safe, Caiden suffers crippling nightmares and deep trauma, and after going through a variety of physical and mental transitions, decides he’s going to take on the organization responsible for managing the nophek, and killing his family and friends. He also discovers there are different multiverses, and multiple organizations involved in the gloss trade, with his family’s murderers being a super-powerful and massive organization, with a separate and similar sort of organization using the gloss to power ancient artifacts by the long dead Graven. Knowing how complex it will be, Caiden still dedicates his life to destroying his family's murderers. Phew! And That’s the setup! There is a surfeit of really neat ideas, aliens, cultures and technologies in this revenge story, set against a backdrop of secrets, greed, and profits, so, at least the story's foundation is familiar. In fact, I was a little overwhelmed by the huge number of details I had to absorb in short order once I started this book (there is a glossary, thankfully, which I did not consult till the end, as I didn’t feel like disrupting my reading flow). I was also somewhat dubious about the term multiverses in this story, no matter how cool the idea sounds. In implementation, the author’s multiverses seemed to me to be bubbles of different environments, inimical to species not from the bubble, with the bubbles’ boundaries, or rinds, requiring care to pass through and ships made to do so. A ‘verse seems like it should be a beyond comprehension, massive thing to me, not something that contains a several rooms, for instance. I also had a hard time wrapping my head around the main supporting characters, the Passengers, whom Caiden falls in with. I could not keep them straight, and had to keep returning to their introduction on the nophek planet to figure out who Caiden was talking to. Did I like this book? I liked parts, like -the sheer diversity of aliens, and by extension, the world building -Caiden’s multiverse-generating ship, which seemed intriguing -the nophek Will I continue the series? I’m not sure, though I was mildly curious to know how C developed.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gautam Bhatia

    The best science fiction gives you that “oceanic feeling” - a sense of vastness and of wonder. Science fiction also affords writers a chance to create and explore worlds richer and more complex than our own, to put flesh on ideas that exist only as shadows in our minds. Essa Hansen’s Nophek Gloss is an accomplished debut that joins the tradition of visionary science fiction, while also telling a personal, coming-of-age story that is visceral and compelling. Nophek Gloss is set in a multi-species The best science fiction gives you that “oceanic feeling” - a sense of vastness and of wonder. Science fiction also affords writers a chance to create and explore worlds richer and more complex than our own, to put flesh on ideas that exist only as shadows in our minds. Essa Hansen’s Nophek Gloss is an accomplished debut that joins the tradition of visionary science fiction, while also telling a personal, coming-of-age story that is visceral and compelling. Nophek Gloss is set in a multi-species multiverse that is held together by trade and warfare, both equal and unequal. A variety of species rub shoulders in a variety of universes, and Hansen’s treatment of the multiverse is reminiscent of Borges’ Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge: it is not something that we can contain in the categories that are known to us. Gender, species, ageing, memory - the building blocks of the world we think we know - are all fluid in Nophek Gloss, the multiverse bearing testimony to Saint Oscar’s famous lines, “you hold that a man is a man and a woman is a woman. I hold that nothing is ever purely itself, and that the point where it becomes so is known as death.” The story is that of Caiden, a young man whose home planet is destroyed and whose people are slaughtered by a race of slavers called the Casthen. Caiden survives, unwittingly commandeers a spaceship, and falls in with a motley crew of aliens that soon become his chosen family. In his quest for revenge, however, Caiden realises that the Casthens’ economic importance to the Multiverse rules out any simple fantasies of vengeance; and that he must first negotiate the Multiverse’s complex - and violent - structures of power, before justice can be done. Moving seamlessly between the personal and the existential, the familial and the multi-versal (sorry!), Nophek Gloss is a wonderful read, and I’d put it in my top three of the year.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    Nophek Gloss is an absolute masterclass in world building and character voice- from the very first page Essa Hansen weaves an almost cinematic web around the reader, absorbing you into the intelligent narrative and mix of action and emotion. You need to commit to this one but once you do you’ll be hooked throughout..one boy’s journey towards revenge in a world that has taken everything from him, the group dynamic of new found friends and a family forming, all wrapped up in an engaging, vibrant an Nophek Gloss is an absolute masterclass in world building and character voice- from the very first page Essa Hansen weaves an almost cinematic web around the reader, absorbing you into the intelligent narrative and mix of action and emotion. You need to commit to this one but once you do you’ll be hooked throughout..one boy’s journey towards revenge in a world that has taken everything from him, the group dynamic of new found friends and a family forming, all wrapped up in an engaging, vibrant and often violent world. It is multi layered and brilliant. I can’t wait for part two Highly recommended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Rose

    Such a fresh take. It plays with some of the greatest tropes in the Epic Fantasy/Space Opera genre in ways I'd never imagined (farmboy hero has never looked like this). The sensory details are beautiful, the characters all rich and uniquely important, and the pacing is on the money. Can't recommend this highly enough. Such a fresh take. It plays with some of the greatest tropes in the Epic Fantasy/Space Opera genre in ways I'd never imagined (farmboy hero has never looked like this). The sensory details are beautiful, the characters all rich and uniquely important, and the pacing is on the money. Can't recommend this highly enough.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alia Hess

    Caiden is a kind and protective mechanic boy, living in a world of gentle pastures and grazing bovines. But he gets a suckerpunch to his good-natured heart when his home and family are ripped away from him in the worst imaginable way. Now he’s angry. Really angry. Caiden hones his anger like a blade, pressing himself to the whetstone to grind away his inadequacies and naivety until he’s a strong enough weapon to rid the universes of the people responsible for shattering his life. He struggles no Caiden is a kind and protective mechanic boy, living in a world of gentle pastures and grazing bovines. But he gets a suckerpunch to his good-natured heart when his home and family are ripped away from him in the worst imaginable way. Now he’s angry. Really angry. Caiden hones his anger like a blade, pressing himself to the whetstone to grind away his inadequacies and naivety until he’s a strong enough weapon to rid the universes of the people responsible for shattering his life. He struggles not to lose himself in the process. Lucky for him (and us!) he has a found family of loveable misfits willing to help him learn about the universes and deal with his trauma. And at his core, he’s still that protective boy in the pastures, advocating for animals and innocents. There’s a high level of violence in this book, both in nightmares and Caiden’s waking life, as he fights his way to revenge. It’s not over-the-top gruesome for the sake of being so, and helps to reinforce the hard road Caiden is following to get to his goal. But those with sensitive hearts or weak stomachs may want to skip those parts. If you’ve ever been confused about who you are or your place in the world, Caiden’s yearning will be familiar. And if you’re ace (like me) you’ll find yourself represented in Caiden as well. There is also nonbinary (also me) rep, in the form of gender-fluid En, who is a delightful addition to Caiden’s ragtag space family. There is also autistic rep! Issues dealing with identity, sexuality, race, animal exploitation, and tenuous politics are all handled with care. Plus there’s a badass spaceship and terrifying doggos! This is the epic space opera you need. 💜🚀🐺

  15. 4 out of 5

    Emma Cathryne

    This was an example of a book being the following: high quality, incredible writing, dense and creative world-building, and also---not for me. I cannot fault this book for its quality, however my reviews are also a reflection of my personal feelings and I really struggled with many of the thoroughly dark themes in this book, which is in many ways a nuanced and graphic exploration of a young man's heavy trauma. However, if the trigger warnings (listed below) aren't something that typically bother This was an example of a book being the following: high quality, incredible writing, dense and creative world-building, and also---not for me. I cannot fault this book for its quality, however my reviews are also a reflection of my personal feelings and I really struggled with many of the thoroughly dark themes in this book, which is in many ways a nuanced and graphic exploration of a young man's heavy trauma. However, if the trigger warnings (listed below) aren't something that typically bother you in books, I would highly recommend this as a creative sci-fi debut. The world-building is top notch, imagining a richly complex multiverse in which aliens ("xenids") and humans and hybrids of both can travel with ships between universe "rinds", many of which have different biological parameters and physical laws. Our protagonist, a fourteen year old boy named Caidan, must grapple with the sudden and horrifying loss of the world he knows after his society of cattle farmers are brutally slaughtered and he is stranded on an unfamiliar planet. He is picked up by a rag-tag group of space "passengers" who take him under their wing. I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if it leaned more heavily into the "found family' aspect of the novel, a la Becky Chambers or Ann Leckie. My favorite characters were Caidan's companions, and my favorite scenes where those depicting their interpersonal relationships. TW for: slavery, physical abuse, animal death, graphic violence, torture, graphic depictions of death and mutilation

  16. 4 out of 5

    Isaiah

    I got an ARC of this book. DNF at 40%. I didn't care about any of the characters and couldn't even tell most of them apart by this point in the book. There were just glimmers that there was something interesting about characters, but I have already spent days trying to care. I was really into the book, until the ship scenes started which was really quickly first four or five chapters. After they started, there were just so many characters thrown in at once that I never got a grip on them. There I got an ARC of this book. DNF at 40%. I didn't care about any of the characters and couldn't even tell most of them apart by this point in the book. There were just glimmers that there was something interesting about characters, but I have already spent days trying to care. I was really into the book, until the ship scenes started which was really quickly first four or five chapters. After they started, there were just so many characters thrown in at once that I never got a grip on them. There are so many words and rules that aren't explained and there is often not enough context for me to make it up as I went. I can understand some of that comes from the MC not understanding anything, but 40% of the book and I see no chances of that changing. The MC has been forced aged six years and suddenly he understands ships and all of these rules, but they still aren't made clear to me. The aging felt like it was thrown in just to make the beginning plot more horrific since it happened to a child and the rest of the plot more believable since he was an adult now, a real have your cake and eat it too scenario. It just didn't sit right with me. There were some things that could have made this a good book for me, but they were so few and far between that I was often left forcing myself to read. I would stop at the end of every chapter and just managed to not read for hours at at time. This was every chapter. I really wish I had liked it, but it just wasn't for me. I am bored and trying to not force myself to read a book that I am just not enjoying. This was described to me as hardcore sci-fi, but it doesn't even feel like it is. It just felt slow and boring. I have read some hardcore sci-fi that was slow, but it was still fascinating. I think I just wanted a space opera, but was given an agonizingly slow adventure story. There were not enough emotions for me to care about this as a space opera. I will attempt every book labeled as a queer sci-fi, but this just wasn't one that worked for me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Tabler

    Nophek Gloss is a story that pushes the boundlessness of the reader's imagination. It is innovative, harsh, extraordinary, and it is science fiction at its best. I am not sure how to classify Nophek Gloss as part of the science fiction canon. Is it hard science fiction? Quite possibly. There are elements of logic to the science used in the story. There is also a balance of drama to the narrative; the story is very character-driven, making me lean towards Space Opera. Either way, with hard scienc Nophek Gloss is a story that pushes the boundlessness of the reader's imagination. It is innovative, harsh, extraordinary, and it is science fiction at its best. I am not sure how to classify Nophek Gloss as part of the science fiction canon. Is it hard science fiction? Quite possibly. There are elements of logic to the science used in the story. There is also a balance of drama to the narrative; the story is very character-driven, making me lean towards Space Opera. Either way, with hard science fiction or a space opera, creatures, ideas, natural laws, and creatures all usually fall within human perception. i.e., "What goes up must come down." This makes a lot of sense, considering that humans will read the story, and you want it relatable to commonly shared experiences. But, human perception is so limiting. If there are beings from other planets, they will not look like us or react like us. Our natural laws would probably not be the natural laws of other worlds and galaxies when given an infinite palate of choices on what characters could look like, how they would act, or how things like time, gravity, and space behave; why not be different. So when I say that Nophek Gloss is one of the most creative science fiction stories I have ever read, you get where I am going with this. Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen is something else. Newcomer Essa Hansen's story is intriguing; here is an author who is steeped in a love of science fiction and fantasy. As a day job, Essa works as a sound designer for Skywalker Sound, where she worked on Dr. Strange and Avengers: Endgame, as well as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Thor Ragnorak, Ant-Man, and Big Hero Six. She is also a falconer and horsewoman. It seems like she lives and breathes the coolest aspects of science fiction, and none of this is any surprise to me as I read Nophek Gloss. When I say that Nophek Gloss is something else, I genuinely mean it. The basis of the story is a hero's quest type narrative. But when we readers step past the hero's quest narrative and start paying attention to the detailing and imagination that Hansen has added into the fabric of this story, that is where Nophek Gloss soars and stands above its contemporaries. It is visually rich and compelling storytelling. "For a long moment, Laythan's piercing gaze assessed Caiden, judging what to say. "I know all this newness is frustrating, but we need more intelligence at a Cartographer Den before we jump to conclusions. That's where we're headed. You'll understand soon." The story's basis is centered around a protagonist named Caiden, who is born into indentured life. His planet and homelife are destroyed early in the novel, and to survive, he must step away from who he thought he was and enter worlds and times beyond the scope of imagination. Everything he understands and knows to be the truth is a lie. A fabrication put upon him by his previous captors. After he survives an encounter with a Nophek, an otherworldy apex predator creature, "his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined." This misfit crew becomes a found family for Caiden, helps him grow, often painfully, as he assumes a role that he is destined for in the universe. "Pan rarely eats," Taitn said. "Saisn have a very efficient metabolism. She drinks fluids and feeds on vibration, mostly. The dark and quiet is nourishment and medicine for her." If I left the story at found family and quest, it would seem like Hansen didn't tread new material here. But Nophek Gloss is so much more. A universe, by definition, is infinite. But if a writer stops to think about what "infinite" actually means, anything is possible. The very way we perceive experience is limiting; if we could step outside how humans view the universe and expand our understanding, what would that look like? Would it be a universe balanced on the head of a pin? Or creatures that exist as the embodiment of a memory? How about creatures that create energy sources inside their minds, to be harvested to power ships? What about vessels that create their own universes like a bubble that some species can travel through while others can't. A story like this can be a wide-open field only limited by its creator's experience and imagination. I think Nophek Gloss is the perfect playing field for Essa Hanson's ideas. Outside ideas, the structure of Nophek Gloss is easy to read. Hanson keeps the descriptions rich but concise. Hanson does not get lost in the details; she has a particular idea she wants to share with the reader. It isn't overly flowery prose or so much detail that the reader's mind is squashed. Instead, Hanson helps you build something concrete in your mind's eye and gives you a chance to expound on it. This is incredibly important with a genre like science fiction, where the infinite imagination of the reader is an essential tool for building the story. "In front of a glowing wall, a stunning figure caught Caiden's eye. She was humanoid but ethereal and slender, with prosthetic scaffolding around tapered legs. Skin paper-thin and pearly. Her thick hair was so long it pooled onto the floor and clothed her body in dressy billows and braids." Another thing I tip my hat to Hansen on is her exclusivity. In a universe with infinite possibilities, there will be people/creatures that are different than you. Whether that is defined by gender, and the story touches on the question of "what is gender?" Or how people want to represent themselves or communicate. Nophek Gloss also includes neuro-diverse characters in leading roles that offer meaningful relationships to Caiden. There are no token characters in this story, and the importance of respecting diversity is evident by the conclusion of the first chapter. Nophek Gloss also talks a lot about grief and how that is expressed. It is painful to read about Caiden and how he deals with the steps of grief. And how and if he can move on with his life. Caiden deals with grief for most of the book, and how that is defined and exercised is fascinating. I know this seems like a dark and dense story, grief, death, and slavery, and it is. However, there is a great balance to it. Hansen interjects humor and lightness into some scenes to give the readers a break. This mostly comes in the form of Caiden interacting with his rescuing crew members. And while it doesn't always hit the mark humor wise, it does enough to make sure that the reader isn't dragged down into pain and torment. There are also great fight scenes that step outside the normal and exercise the imagination. What does fighting an alien creature look like? Setting and worldbuilding are huge. When you have an unlimited palette of colors, sounds, tastes, and textures, your worlds can be anything. The ones in Nophek Gloss are brilliant colorful creations where technology and the natural world collide. Some so wild that I had to go back and reread things to understand what they could look like. Plot-wise, Nophek Gloss is a brilliant book. Probably one of the best science fiction stories I have read this year. However, some things did get muddled, and I didn't quite grasp Caiden's motivations for his choices. Most of these come in the middle chapters where we don't quite grasp who Caiden is, and his maturity level is iffy. I would think this was probably on purpose; humans go through weird growing stages where we are not thinking so clearly, just as a matter of maturing. Nophek Gloss is a science fiction book for science fiction geeks. It is almost a love letter to those out there who find their passions in the wild and uninhibited imagination that science fiction offers. It won't be for everyone, as some readers might not enjoy the story's expansive nature. It is also incredibly dark. If there is a genre for grimdark science fiction, this is it. It deals with pain, joy, and grief head-on and does not mince words or details. If you enjoy your reading to be lighter fare, this probably is not the story. But for me, I loved it. Wholly and completely. Nophek Gloss is a thundering debut; it grabs the reader and tows you into unchartered territory.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Darby Harn

    Nophek Gloss is an extraordinary, passionate, and lyrical exploration of how not even a multiverse can fill the void left by grief. Essa Hansen does a rare thing in science-fiction. She combines a poetic literary style with dazzling technology, strange new worlds, and truly alien creatures and beasts. Starships create universes. The rinds of universes bob into each other in extraordinary scenes that beg for a cinematic adaptation. Even then, it's difficult to imagine anyone ever doing the images Nophek Gloss is an extraordinary, passionate, and lyrical exploration of how not even a multiverse can fill the void left by grief. Essa Hansen does a rare thing in science-fiction. She combines a poetic literary style with dazzling technology, strange new worlds, and truly alien creatures and beasts. Starships create universes. The rinds of universes bob into each other in extraordinary scenes that beg for a cinematic adaptation. Even then, it's difficult to imagine anyone ever doing the images Hansen conjures any justice. Everything is new. Everything brims with energy and detail. Everything is alive in the book. The plot of the book is deceptively simple. Caiden, a young boy, survives the horrific slaughter of his family and people. He seeks revenge on those who did it, ultimately distorting himself literally and figuratively in the process. He grows into a young man with extraordinary abilities, but the journey he takes across the stars to destroy those who destroyed his life takes a heavy toll. Caiden visits amazing worlds and witnesses unimaginable things and yet the world within his soul is very small. It collapses down around the need for revenge and the book is a determined and rewarding exploration of pain, grief, and the hope of new friends and family. Nophek Gloss is an extraordinary debut novel by an author with more talent than all of her multiverses could ever hope to contain. This is a remarkable book that promises not just a great trilogy but a great career.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Craig Munro

    DNF. The author has an amazing imagination and there is clearly a very enjoyable story to be found in this book, but I’m just not able to get past the many inconsistencies that constantly pull me out of the story. A few examples from the 20% of the book I read (very mild spoilers): - A ragtag group of semi-legal scoundrels are willing to accept that a kid owns a super advanced starship because he took refuge in it a few hours before they arrived to fix and pilot it for him (the fact that he someh DNF. The author has an amazing imagination and there is clearly a very enjoyable story to be found in this book, but I’m just not able to get past the many inconsistencies that constantly pull me out of the story. A few examples from the 20% of the book I read (very mild spoilers): - A ragtag group of semi-legal scoundrels are willing to accept that a kid owns a super advanced starship because he took refuge in it a few hours before they arrived to fix and pilot it for him (the fact that he somehow owns the ship is repeated again and again); - The same child, who lived in a society devoted to raising livestock, doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘sterile’ but is absolutely comfortable with terminology like ‘gravity’, ‘planets’, and ‘universe’; and - The fact that an incredibly diverse multiversal society would break down sentient beings into only two categories - Human or Xenid.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    DNF. There was something not quite interesting about this story. I think it was the characters. I didn't really like any of them and I could not see myself chunking out any more time with them. DNF. There was something not quite interesting about this story. I think it was the characters. I didn't really like any of them and I could not see myself chunking out any more time with them.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Tabler

    Nophek Gloss is a story that pushes the boundlessness of the reader's imagination. It is innovative, harsh, extraordinary, and it is science fiction at its best. I am not sure how to classify Nophek Gloss as part of the science fiction canon. Is it hard science fiction? Quite possibly. There are elements of logic to the science used in the story. There is also a balance of drama to the narrative; the story is very character-driven, making me lean towards Space Opera. Either way, with hard scienc Nophek Gloss is a story that pushes the boundlessness of the reader's imagination. It is innovative, harsh, extraordinary, and it is science fiction at its best. I am not sure how to classify Nophek Gloss as part of the science fiction canon. Is it hard science fiction? Quite possibly. There are elements of logic to the science used in the story. There is also a balance of drama to the narrative; the story is very character-driven, making me lean towards Space Opera. Either way, with hard science fiction or a space opera, creatures, ideas, natural laws, and creatures all usually fall within human perception. i.e., "What goes up must come down." This makes a lot of sense, considering that humans will read the story, and you want it relatable to commonly shared experiences. But, human perception is so limiting. If there are beings from other planets, they will not look like us or react like us. Our natural laws would probably not be the natural laws of other worlds and galaxies when given an infinite palate of choices on what characters could look like, how they would act, or how things like time, gravity, and space behave; why not be different. So when I say that Nophek Gloss is one of the most creative science fiction stories I have ever read, you get where I am going with this. Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen is something else. Newcomer Essa Hansen's story is intriguing; here is an author who is steeped in a love of science fiction and fantasy. As a day job, Essa works as a sound designer for Skywalker Sound, where she worked on Dr. Strange and Avengers: Endgame, as well as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Thor Ragnorak, Ant-Man, and Big Hero Six. She is also a falconer and horsewoman. It seems like she lives and breathes the coolest aspects of science fiction, and none of this is any surprise to me as I read Nophek Gloss. When I say that Nophek Gloss is something else, I genuinely mean it. The basis of the story is a hero's quest type narrative. But when we readers step past the hero's quest narrative and start paying attention to the detailing and imagination that Hansen has added into the fabric of this story, that is where Nophek Gloss soars and stands above its contemporaries. It is visually rich and compelling storytelling. "For a long moment, Laythan's piercing gaze assessed Caiden, judging what to say. "I know all this newness is frustrating, but we need more intelligence at a Cartographer Den before we jump to conclusions. That's where we're headed. You'll understand soon." The story's basis is centered around a protagonist named Caiden, who is born into indentured life. His planet and homelife are destroyed early in the novel, and to survive, he must step away from who he thought he was and enter worlds and times beyond the scope of imagination. Everything he understands and knows to be the truth is a lie. A fabrication put upon him by his previous captors. After he survives an encounter with a Nophek, an otherworldy apex predator creature, "his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined." This misfit crew becomes a found family for Caiden, helps him grow, often painfully, as he assumes a role that he is destined for in the universe. "Pan rarely eats," Taitn said. "Saisn have a very efficient metabolism. She drinks fluids and feeds on vibration, mostly. The dark and quiet is nourishment and medicine for her." If I left the story at found family and quest, it would seem like Hansen didn't tread new material here. But Nophek Gloss is so much more. A universe, by definition, is infinite. But if a writer stops to think about what "infinite" actually means, anything is possible. The very way we perceive experience is limiting; if we could step outside how humans view the universe and expand our understanding, what would that look like? Would it be a universe balanced on the head of a pin? Or creatures that exist as the embodiment of a memory? How about creatures that create energy sources inside their minds, to be harvested to power ships? What about vessels that create their own universes like a bubble that some species can travel through while others can't. A story like this can be a wide-open field only limited by its creator's experience and imagination. I think Nophek Gloss is the perfect playing field for Essa Hanson's ideas. Outside ideas, the structure of Nophek Gloss is easy to read. Hanson keeps the descriptions rich but concise. Hanson does not get lost in the details; she has a particular idea she wants to share with the reader. It isn't overly flowery prose or so much detail that the reader's mind is squashed. Instead, Hanson helps you build something concrete in your mind's eye and gives you a chance to expound on it. This is incredibly important with a genre like science fiction, where the infinite imagination of the reader is an essential tool for building the story. "In front of a glowing wall, a stunning figure caught Caiden's eye. She was humanoid but ethereal and slender, with prosthetic scaffolding around tapered legs. Skin paper-thin and pearly. Her thick hair was so long it pooled onto the floor and clothed her body in dressy billows and braids." Another thing I tip my hat to Hansen on is her exclusivity. In a universe with infinite possibilities, there will be people/creatures that are different than you. Whether that is defined by gender, and the story touches on the question of "what is gender?" Or how people want to represent themselves or communicate. Nophek Gloss also includes neuro-diverse characters in leading roles that offer meaningful relationships to Caiden. There are no token characters in this story, and the importance of respecting diversity is evident by the conclusion of the first chapter. Nophek Gloss also talks a lot about grief and how that is expressed. It is painful to read about Caiden and how he deals with the steps of grief. And how and if he can move on with his life. Caiden deals with grief for most of the book, and how that is defined and exercised is fascinating. I know this seems like a dark and dense story, grief, death, and slavery, and it is. However, there is a great balance to it. Hansen interjects humor and lightness into some scenes to give the readers a break. This mostly comes in the form of Caiden interacting with his rescuing crew members. And while it doesn't always hit the mark humor wise, it does enough to make sure that the reader isn't dragged down into pain and torment. There are also great fight scenes that step outside the normal and exercise the imagination. What does fighting an alien creature look like? Setting and worldbuilding are huge. When you have an unlimited palette of colors, sounds, tastes, and textures, your worlds can be anything. The ones in Nophek Gloss are brilliant colorful creations where technology and the natural world collide. Some so wild that I had to go back and reread things to understand what they could look like. Plot-wise, Nophek Gloss is a brilliant book. Probably one of the best science fiction stories I have read this year. However, some things did get muddled, and I didn't quite grasp Caiden's motivations for his choices. Most of these come in the middle chapters where we don't quite grasp who Caiden is, and his maturity level is iffy. I would think this was probably on purpose; humans go through weird growing stages where we are not thinking so clearly, just as a matter of maturing. Nophek Gloss is a science fiction book for science fiction geeks. It is almost a love letter to those out there who find their passions in the wild and uninhibited imagination that science fiction offers. It won't be for everyone, as some readers might not enjoy the story's expansive nature. It is also incredibly dark. If there is a genre for grimdark science fiction, this is it. It deals with pain, joy, and grief head-on and does not mince words or details. If you enjoy your reading to be lighter fare, this probably is not the story. But for me, I loved it. Wholly and completely. Nophek Gloss is a thundering debut; it grabs the reader and tows you into unchartered territory.

  22. 5 out of 5

    D.A. Adam Smith

    Nophek Gloss is one of the most vividly imaginative science fiction books I’ve ever read; from the wild alien technology to the vast array of different xenid species, it has been one hell of a ride – it’s like Mass Effect with some lingering wisps of Red Rising but at the same time something of its own. Pick someone broken, add them into the mix of a found family, give them a dose of vengeance and drop it all into an expansive multiverse littered with the ancient tech of a lost people and you’ve Nophek Gloss is one of the most vividly imaginative science fiction books I’ve ever read; from the wild alien technology to the vast array of different xenid species, it has been one hell of a ride – it’s like Mass Effect with some lingering wisps of Red Rising but at the same time something of its own. Pick someone broken, add them into the mix of a found family, give them a dose of vengeance and drop it all into an expansive multiverse littered with the ancient tech of a lost people and you’ve scratched the surface of this terrifyingly original debut. Caiden, is lost – not right – in many ways, and put together in even more. Hansen has done a great job giving us something very human mixed into all of this alienness, something very scarred, that also fits in well amongst the backdrop of super-advanced tech etc, but positions him to be strong enough to wear those broken pieces as armour. And a cause to make a change. It made him stronger, more capable than those around him, but not as mature. Due to several very Hansen-sci-fi plot points, he only matured in a forced, alien-tech sense. At times, I did feel like he was very brash, the artificer of his own failure. These parts played out in annoyance, in a face-palm, or an ‘Oh, Caiden, just stop!’ moment. But I cared, and that was what matters. And although he does stupid things and often messes up, he is trying his best to survive. The plot, in simple, non-spoiling terms: Caiden is with his family unit on a planet designed to rear livestock for Nopheks. When all the livestock dies, the Casthen step in and their plan uncovered, Caiden is rescued. Taken off-world by a group of misfit passagers. There, he learns that his world is but a drop is a massive expanse of universes. The multiverse. When he finds out that the Casthen Prime, Cydanza, is responsible for his plight, he sets his eyes on revenge – at which point he meets Threi, an oily slick Casthen Enforcer who shares his goal. Kill the Casthen Prime. I have to say I loved the plot; it was exciting and bounced between action scenes. But A LOT did happen. And sometimes, for me, a little too quickly. There were chapters in which an entire plan was hatched, acted on, failed and defeated. Only for something new to happen in the next – the turnover of subplots were very quick. This lent itself to the feeling that the same might happen with the next chapter and left me wondering what mattered at time. And what did matter paid off well before the end, where the story petered out into preparation for the next book. Very cleverly executed, though. It still managed to surprise and shock. Found family: when all was lost for Caiden, he found something new. Laythan, En, Taitn, Ksine and his whipkin, and Panca. At first, something that seemed ill-fitting – I didn’t initially buy the feelings that Caiden, now Winn, felt for his new family. It seemed surface deep, too quick. The connection only took place when he later is not with them, Hansen weaves a net of emotions, memories and the little things that one feels when their family is distant. On their return, my chest was tight, breaths quick. I was glad – the family felt real, genuine. Along the way, additions to this setup serve to pull your heart out, and add layers of disgust towards the Casthen, and questions about the Dynast, the ruling faction. I thoroughly enjoyed Nophek Gloss; it is a cracking debut for what promises to be a fun series. If you love all the original, advanced technology you could possibly handle, a lovable, intriguing main cast with a lot of history and scars and an face-paced plot, then this is one you might want to pick up.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Nophek Gloss is the first instalment in a science fiction space opera trilogy entitled The Graven, but what makes it different to others series’ is that each book can be read as a stand-alone as the plot wraps up at the end of each instalment. It follows protagonist and slave Caiden, a very young mechanic who dedicates his life to repairing the machines that are used to create food for the animals that generate the gloss of the title, the most valuable substance in the galaxy. However, his plane Nophek Gloss is the first instalment in a science fiction space opera trilogy entitled The Graven, but what makes it different to others series’ is that each book can be read as a stand-alone as the plot wraps up at the end of each instalment. It follows protagonist and slave Caiden, a very young mechanic who dedicates his life to repairing the machines that are used to create food for the animals that generate the gloss of the title, the most valuable substance in the galaxy. However, his planet has had problems in maintaining this task and sustaining the food source to satiate his ruthless masters, thinking that in the absence of good bread there are cakes, decide to pack up and present the entire human population of the planet as a succulent snack to continue supporting the beasts. Caiden is an interesting character that I didn’t love in the first half, but I did in the second. He starts out in this book as a 14-year-old who hasn’t ever lived outside of his own basic planet. He’s understandably angry and hurt, and he acts just as an angry and hurt 14-year-old from a sheltered nowhere planet would. But this is the multiverse and it is full of all kinds of technology, such as acceleration, which can put a few more years of aging on you in a few hours. The latter half of tose story sees Caiden a few years older and shows him becoming a few years wiser, which I really enjoyed. It's character-rich, full of action and intensity, and intricately assembled, providing hours of escapism and entertainment. The multiverse in which it is set is interesting and beautifully built, the plot is action-packed, emotional and exciting and the cast of characters, though limited, allows the focus to be on developing Caiden as he comes of age. It's a slow burner to begin with as Hansen deals with the exposition necessary in a series opener but once the setting, characters and backstory are given their foundations it becomes much pacier, palpably tense and pretty difficult to put down. Immersive, refreshingly creative and written in a tactile prose, I am assured the sequel, Azura Ghost, due out in October 2021, will expand the scope to multiversal conflict and the world into new dimensions of consciousness. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Orbit for an ARC.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Edward Silverman

    Thanks to Orbit, and #netgalley for an advanced e-copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review. This book is the debut novel by Essa Hansen, who has an absolutely incredible imagination. The book starts off with a fantastic and horrifying adventure sequence where the main character’s world is upended. The story then becomes a lot about the main character’s growth as a person in how he interacts with his newfound pseudo family and the world (and the universes). Yeah you read that right Thanks to Orbit, and #netgalley for an advanced e-copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review. This book is the debut novel by Essa Hansen, who has an absolutely incredible imagination. The book starts off with a fantastic and horrifying adventure sequence where the main character’s world is upended. The story then becomes a lot about the main character’s growth as a person in how he interacts with his newfound pseudo family and the world (and the universes). Yeah you read that right, universes plural. I try not to give too much away but this was a nice touch in order to give the worldbuilding even more complexity. The main character literally has to grow up at an accelerated rate, and the alienation he feels from this could be analogous to what a lot of teenagers and people in the early 20s may feel as they begin to navigate the wider world. I don’t know if that is what the author intended but I drew that from the story. Oddly, the valuable Gloss, which ostensibly plays a huge role in the story, is secondary to the struggle of wider powers of the universes, and how the main character interacts with them, which I won’t spoil here. There are neuroatypical characters represented here, and even the main character feels like an ‘alien’ to the situation in which he is in, so it is a difference in many respects to space operas where the protagonist is self assured and it feels like different types of people are well represented. There are hints of Orson Scott Card in the interaction Caiden has with the Nophek given his history with them, and then he felt like a hero in a space opera who had self doubts, almost in the way a Marvel superhero would. Trying to come up with additional comparisons is tough but Ann Leckie would stand out, given the types of characters involved. With a story scope the size of universes, characters that feel Marvel-like, and an author style that is unique but feels a bit like Ann Leckie, or Orson Scott Card or even Timothy Zahn. The action scenes are top notch. Recommend strongly-put it on your to read list.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Wayne Santos

    Nophek Gloss is about a far-flung future where many civilizations have utilized a technology that allows them to travel not just to other worlds, or even other galaxies, but other universes. Caiden is a teenager, living an idyllic existence, completely unaware of the greater cultures around him until his ignorance is ripped away in trauma, bloodshed, and loss and the only thing left to him is a fury he can't control, and a desire for vengeance with no apparent means of resolution. Nophek Gloss sh Nophek Gloss is about a far-flung future where many civilizations have utilized a technology that allows them to travel not just to other worlds, or even other galaxies, but other universes. Caiden is a teenager, living an idyllic existence, completely unaware of the greater cultures around him until his ignorance is ripped away in trauma, bloodshed, and loss and the only thing left to him is a fury he can't control, and a desire for vengeance with no apparent means of resolution. Nophek Gloss shows off Hansen's startling level of imagination. When you've got entire universes to play with, you expect a certain level of diversity, of weirdness, of texture and new. Hansen delivers on all of that, with a barrage of new sights, sounds, flavors and species as Caiden struggles to learn more about the multiverse he lives in, and how he can best turn it to his need for revenge. Caiden is a flawed character, but understandably so. He's not perfect, and he makes decisions that are not always the most strategically or emotionally sound, but you always understand why he made those choices. He owns his consequences, even though those results are not always self-inflicted wounds. What could have easily turned into a whiny, woe-is-me character drowning in his own trauma, is instead someone that is always trying to move past it. Even when he gets beaten down repeatedly. There's a dazzling multiverse here, complemented by fascinating quick brushes with technologies and cultures that feel exotic and new. Caiden's single-minded purpose drives the story forward, constantly, but you always have time to look out the window and get tantalizing glimpses of what is being passed by. If you're looking for a science-fiction foray filled with revenge-lust, different planes of existence mingling for fun, profit and convenience, and a starship capable of creating its own universe with same ease a sports car has switching gears, you probably need this book in your life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lizy

    Note: I received this ARC from Orbit, so special thanks to the publisher. Immaculate world building and complex alien technologies form the backbone of Essa Hansen's debut novel NOPHEK GLOSS, an angst-riddled space opera about one boy's quest for vengeance in the face of genocide. The first chapter blew me away. This is a powerful and compelling tale that establishes Hansen firmly at the scifi table. Note: I received this ARC from Orbit, so special thanks to the publisher. Immaculate world building and complex alien technologies form the backbone of Essa Hansen's debut novel NOPHEK GLOSS, an angst-riddled space opera about one boy's quest for vengeance in the face of genocide. The first chapter blew me away. This is a powerful and compelling tale that establishes Hansen firmly at the scifi table.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jon Adams

    Outstanding debut.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jason Aycock

    Nophek Gloss is one of the most imaginative books I’ve read this year. It’s an epic, vivid, diverse, and at times brutal foray into interlocking themes of family, justice, and revenge. Whew…where to start? I remember reading the initial blurb Orbit put out about Nophek Gloss when the book was first announced on Twitter and thought “Wow that sounds really interesting!” A ship that create its own bubble universe and a wider multiverse that can be explored. I had a feeling this book would be interes Nophek Gloss is one of the most imaginative books I’ve read this year. It’s an epic, vivid, diverse, and at times brutal foray into interlocking themes of family, justice, and revenge. Whew…where to start? I remember reading the initial blurb Orbit put out about Nophek Gloss when the book was first announced on Twitter and thought “Wow that sounds really interesting!” A ship that create its own bubble universe and a wider multiverse that can be explored. I had a feeling this book would be interesting and I was right. First let me say again this book is imaginative. I mean really imaginative. Any good sci-fi book has to be. What stands out to me in Nophek Gloss is really two things, the extraordinary multiverse Hansen has created with universes big and ever so small, and the rich and diverse species that exist in them. Oh…and then the ship the main characters run around in. So maybe that makes three things. So I admit I don’t read tons of science fiction. I know there are plenty of other stories out there with a multiverse (it’s the basis of Marvel and DC’s comics for Pete’s sake) and the idea of bubble or pocket universes isn’t new to fiction either. But this was my first real experience with them in a book outside of comics. And it REALLY worked for me. The concept gave so much extra flair and depth to the story. There are massive universes and teeny tiny pocket/bubble universes (like the one the ship can create) and everything in between. But it isn’t like you can just travel from one to another. Moving into a new universe may have little to no effect on you, or it could kill you if your body isn’t suitable to it. This gave the story some really interesting dynamics and some integral plot points. It was really cool. Then there are the many and varied diverse species who populate the story. The closest thing I can associate it with is Star Wars or Star Trek. Like, you know how both of those “universes” have some epically diverse species living in them? Nophek Gloss is much the same. Hansen didn’t get lazy in creating the creatures that inhabit her story. They are SOOOOO freaking interesting and different. I just…I can’t explain it without just copying and pasting the descriptions of them. And they aren’t all humanoid looking bi-pedal creatures (though most of them are). Suffice it to say this was one of the aspects of the book I loved most. I’ll admit it was hard at times to see some of the species in my head based on the descriptions, and there were a lot of different ones to keep up with, but once I told myself to let my imagination take over from where Hansen’s descriptions left off things settled in perfectly. And the diversity isn’t just in the different kinds of species, but also in their sexuality and gender dynamics. One of my favorite characters was one who could change their gender/sex at will. This was such a complex and moving character and really my favorite of the book. And then the ship. You know glossy black one you see on the cover? That ship was really cool. It’s kind of alive and not totally mechanical. It forms something like a very subtle symbiotic relationship with the people who travel inside it. And it can create a small bubble universe that surrounds it on demand. So yeah…pretty sweet place to call home as you navigate the stars. Then there’s the actual story itself. I said above it hits on interlocking themes of family, justice, and revenge. And whew…does it ever. I mean right from the get-go your thrown into them. Family is so integral to the story, especially “found family.” As the blurb indicates the main character loses his family in very devastating fashion. Every interaction Caiden has from that point on is in some form or fashion a reaction to to that event, and the people he comes into contact with will have to be sifted through a familial screen. But family is vitally important to every character in the story, big and small. It carries from the first to the very last page. If this is a trope or theme you enjoy then you’ll probably love it here. Justice and Revenge almost go hand-in-hand in Nophek Gloss. I mean they really are two sides of the same coin. Caiden wants both for what happened to him and his family. But what Hansen did really well with these themes is evolve them. So, a mini-spoiler moment here (skip to next paragraph if you want to miss it) that doesn’t spoil the overall plot…ok ready…skip ahead if you don’t want it…there’s a point where Caiden is able to advance his years in a few hours time. Like he can add six years to his life, AND add all the knowledge and experience that would come with them. It’s a really cool plot device that also allows Hansen to make some easy choices with the plot. But the thing I really dug about it was how Caiden’s desire for justice and revenge matured as he aged. First it was that of a teenage boy with all that teenage angst and burning fire, but then it was that of a young man, still burning, but now a little more controlled and directed. But it’s still revenge so the threat of it bursting out of control into a total conflagration is always there. Anyway, I really really thought this was well done. Now, I have to admit the diversity thing I liked above also has a downside. There are a ton of unique names and ideas, and creatures, and well everything that at times you start to feel a little lost. Thankfully there is a glossary at the end of the book to help you keep up. But yeah sometimes I found myself glossing over things. And there was one recurring aspect of the book where you are led to believe one thing and by the end, well things change. It seemed obvious given the many references and allusions to it what would happen in the end and I was right. I won’t tell you what it is, but I think you’ll figure it out. It doesn’t take away from the story in my opinion, but it just didn’t come as a surprise when the reveal happened. But, overall I enjoyed the writing. The book had a strong opening that might give you some anxiety as Hansen does a great job of letting you know something isn’t right before unleashing the dogs on you. The middle of the book did drag at times for me but it wasn’t horrible. There was enough shiny new things to look at and explore that it still kept my interest. That burning thirst for revenge and all the decisions (quite often bad ones) that went with it kept me turning the page to see how the story would end up. The action scenes were thrilling and at times edge of your seat. I mean there were points I really wondered if things would work out for our band of misfits. So in closing let me just say how enjoyable this read was. If you are looking for a thrilling, diverse, and unique read to close out the year definitely pick this one up. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Essa Hansen has given us a strong debut and I for one can’t wait to see where the rest of the story goes.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    Absolutely gorgeous and savage sci-fi, the kind of book that made me grumpy if I had to put it down and peel myself back to real life. I was dreaming about badass found families every night I read this! Highly recommended for anyone who loves to get lost in a new universe of species, tech, genetics and all their implications. Like Caiden wonders about fitting in with a new group, the book explores how things all fit together: who can you trust to be a leader in a vast multiverse of slavers, oppr Absolutely gorgeous and savage sci-fi, the kind of book that made me grumpy if I had to put it down and peel myself back to real life. I was dreaming about badass found families every night I read this! Highly recommended for anyone who loves to get lost in a new universe of species, tech, genetics and all their implications. Like Caiden wonders about fitting in with a new group, the book explores how things all fit together: who can you trust to be a leader in a vast multiverse of slavers, oppressive organizations, and individuals designed to elicit love and loyalty? There are some intensely satisfying scenes (one featuring the book's star creature, I won't say more) and moments of genuine love, humor and affection between characters to soften all the action and horror.

  30. 4 out of 5

    S.J. Higbee

    Well this one started with a bang! The book starts with the terrifying experience in young Caiden’s life that defines most of the resultant action within the story – I liked that. It meant that I knew exactly what had driven him. While there are the usual tropes that occur within the genre, Hansen takes them and gives them an interesting spin. I liked the idea of the various universes – and an alien race whose relationship with them is quite different. I also liked the fact that rampant capitalis Well this one started with a bang! The book starts with the terrifying experience in young Caiden’s life that defines most of the resultant action within the story – I liked that. It meant that I knew exactly what had driven him. While there are the usual tropes that occur within the genre, Hansen takes them and gives them an interesting spin. I liked the idea of the various universes – and an alien race whose relationship with them is quite different. I also liked the fact that rampant capitalism, which is a staple of this genre, is more nuanced and complicated within this world. In fact the worldbuilding works really well, which isn’t always the case in a book where the character development is so well done. I loved the crew of the ship that rescues Caiden. Each one of them has dark backstories of their own and were either able to use their own experiences to help the boy – or found interacting with him simply too painful. Hansen’s layered characterisation, so that none of the protagonists are completely good or bad, shone through. As for Threi – Caiden’s initial antagonist – he has to be one of the standout villains of the year, for me. One of the major themes in this book is how to cope with a terrible trauma. How do you avoid being twisted into a ball of vengeful fury? How do you overcome the pain and anger of injustice so you don’t go on reproducing that on others you interact with? And no… Hansen doesn’t fall back on Pollyanna-ish truisms to help Caiden fight his inner demons. The plotting in this one is also spot on. I always love it when you are introduced to a person or creature at the beginning of the book as one thing, to find that actually, it is something quite different. Hansen uses this throughout the story to continue producing fresh plot twists throughout. In short, this is one of my favourite space opera adventures of the year – accomplished, well-crafted and packed full of action. It held me throughout and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next in the series. Highly recommended for fans of well written, character-led space opera set in a strong world. 10/10

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