Windswept by Adam Rakuna

A review by Nalini Haynes

Windswept is rum made from molasses on a dead-end planet at the arse-end of the universe.

Padma, a union official, is trying to do her job: find new bodies to fill roles in her area so she can shuffle those who want to move. Problem is, she’s on a planet at the ass-end of the universe where new bodies are hard to find, usually limited to Company employees breaking their Indentures and jumping (space)ship.

Ships aren’t that common either: most are heading out into the unknown on a one-way trip. Others are there to pick up the planet’s one resource: canned molasses, which is fuel and food for the masses.

Bloomberg, a stinking sewerage employee, comes to Padma with a tip: 40 bodies are about to jump ship. In spite of past experiences with Bloomberg, Padma signs a contract with him and heads out to pick up the escapees. Along the way Padma meets Jilly, a teenage freeborn runaway whom Padma co-opts as a driver. 

There aren’t 40 jumpers, there are only 5 and a corpse. But that’s when the fun begins.

Banks, one of the escapee jumpers, was a lawyer. His commentary on the legal system is biting. Meanwhile, his unpredictable behaviour waves red flags.

The majority of characters in Windswept seem to be women. Some minor characters are queer. No-one in the novel cares. People want what they want. Unity in diversity except when greed creates conflict.

Central characters have backstories to give them some depth and motivation. Some of the key-but-not-central characters seemed a little uneven; I felt the 2 crazy old ladies were shunted aside, underdeveloped, until they weren’t. More of them earlier could have helped Windswept feel more consistent throughout while the molasses (plot) boils away.

Some aspects of the storytelling threw me, like when cranes behave like MarioKart vehicles on a gaming-platform structure. I figured out what is happening in the end but when cranes start ascending and descending ladders, it’s ‘WTF?!?’

The companies are Wal-Wah (a descendent of Wal-mart), MacDonald Heavy (presumably MacDonalds and a few others) and LiaCon (I have no clue). The union is supposed to stand up for the little man but really just helps people escape the Company to live in quiet or not-so-quiet desperation. For many, unionism is a downgrade in lifestyle. Rakuna thus spoofs the god-like control of companies on the average person’s life without offering an alternative.

Only one character seems to really seize his life, doing his crappy job whilst using his spare time for the things he loves. Perhaps this, too, is social comment?

The climax involves some figurative guns that may or may not have been placed on the stage in act 1. Said figurative guns can only be interpreted as farcical.

Part action-adventure, part space opera, part farce, Windswept follows Padma, Jilly and the escapees through complicated legal, company-vs-union conflict and violent struggles in a post-diaspora-heading-towards-collapse science fiction universe. Recommended for Star Trek fans who loved stories like ‘The Bell Riots’.

Three stars.

Book Info:

UK Print
Date: 3rd September 2015
ISBN: 9780857664778
Format: Medium (B-Format) Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99

North American Print
Date: 1st September 2015
ISBN: 9780857664785
Format: Small (Mass-Market) Paperback
R.R.P.: US$7.99 / CAN$9.99

Ebook
Date: 1st September 2015
ISBN: 9780857664792
Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

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Windswept cover