There are so many generation ship stories that it is now a science fiction subgenre all of its own. That does not mean that there is no more room for innovation. Adam Oyebanji’s Braking Day uses many of the familiar topes of the generation ship subgenre but deploys them in a new way. And he uses complex characters to explore his richly imagined world.
Ravi McLeod is studying to be an officer on board the Archimedes. Ravi is part of the sixth generation since that ship and its two companions left Earth but the first of his family to try and join the officer class as an engineer, the Macleods being more known for criminal activity. And there is plenty fo engineers to do as the ship is not so slowly falling apart after over 130 years in space and the crew have to get ready for Braking Day, the day on which the three ships start to decelerate so they do not miss their target. But all is not well aboard these ships including a group of agitators who want to prevent the landing and continue travelling for ever on board the slowly decaying vessels. And that is all before Ravi starts having strange prophetic dreams and seeing an impossible girl.
Oyebanji effectively immerses readers in Ravi’s world from the first page. While it takes a while to understand exactly how everything works, he presents a world that feels lived in. Due to his trainee officer status, Ravi is able to be a guide to all strata on the Archidmedes and with his lawbreaker cousin Boz, is able to try and solve the mystery of his visions. And about two thirds of the way through the book, the solving that mystery takes Ravi and readers in a completely new direction and sets up a thrilling conclusion.
Braking Day uses many of the standards of generation ship stories – a highly stratified society, a barter system based on essential goods, an almost religious conception of the mission – on a ship with spinning habitat rings. But it does so with a freshness and inventiveness that adds to this body of work. So that even those steeped in the tradition of this genre will still find plenty enjoy and appreciate. And all within a rattling good yarn that multiple cliffhangers to keep the pages turning. While there is plenty of scope for more stories in this universe, Braking Day feels like a standalone. Either way, Oyebanji will have readers curious about what he might choose to take on next.