I received a copy of Jonathan Howard’s novel “Katya’s World” from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It is one of the first books books released through Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot’s new YA imprint. Based on this book, I can’t wait to see more!
“Katya’s World” is science fiction set on the planet Russalka, a colony world founded by Russian immigrants from Earth. Russalka is an aquatic world with abundant natural resources, which made colonization a viable economic decision at the time. However, political problems on Earth meant that the colony was ignored and left to fend for itself. The harsh climate and lack of any actual land surface created a resilient and independent people.
Katya is on her first voyage as a submarine navigator with her uncle Lyukan when the military asks her to assist in a prisoner transport. This isn’t normal, and both Lyukan and Katya resent the interruption of their command. However, when the ship is attacked by a sea monster dubbed the Leviathan, Katya, Lyukan, and their mysterious prisoner find themselves caught up in a struggle that could threaten their entire world.
Over the past few months, I’ve been attempting to find YA novels that aren’t the same old tired story of love triangles and teenage novels. This one is a winner. Not only does it lack love triangles, but it doesn’t have a love story at all. Quite frankly, it doesn’t need one. Katya is a young woman making the first steps in her career, and is going through the phase where people who would normally be authority figures are now becoming colleagues and asking her to help make decisions. She’s young, spunky, and confident, and her problems revolve around carrying her passengers to safety and fighting sea monsters.
I was also impressed by the world building, because the entire idea of living on a planet without a land surface is something that I haven’t read about before. Howard explores themes like ethnic identity as he creates a people with Russian ancestry but who have lived on Russalka for so long that they no longer identify themselves with the people of Earth.
Overall, I’d highly recommend this one. While I read it a couple months ago, I’m including it in The 2013 Science Fiction Experience, as I’m only getting as far as reviewing it now.