Top positive review
Exiles and Brokenness
Reviewed in the United States on February 15, 2019
Sam J Miller has become a trusted go-to-author when I venture out of my literary bubble to sample genres I don't typically read--in this case, science fiction. In some ways, I suppose, I'm not therefore particularly qualified to review Blackfish City. But I'm giving it a go nonetheless.
This is a story of exiles and brokenness--the kind of brokenness where the spirit enters. Indeed, the disease that afflicts many of the characters is known as the breaks. It is part redemption song and part jailbreak. Like the chaotic city where it is set, the novel's initial (deliberate) incoherence, which is really a rush of strange detail and invention, begins to resolve into something more familiar.
In a nutshell, a strange woman with an orca familiar appears in the city and becomes the subject of much speculation and fear. People project on her their own conflicts and desires. She gradually assembles her chosen family in the midst of an outbreak of less-than-civil war between the "shareholders" (powerful, rich and shadowy figures who are the city's owners in every sense) and a female-led crime syndicate. The family then seeks to obtain its end (no spoliers) but is met with no shortage of abrupt and gruesome deaths (Miller is not afraid to kill off key and beloved characters!).
Miller has invented here a merciless world, but with enough redemptive characters to give the bleakness a rest and leave room for hope. Although I thought the last portion meandered perhaps a bit too long after the jailbreak and some of the class and gender conflict hung a little heavy on the prose (hence no 5 stars), Miller's imagination left me breathless.