Review: The Vela

Series: The Vela: #1

Eratos wasn’t the only dying world, just the one dying fastest—the tiny colony on Samos had been gone for a decade, and after Eratos would be Hypatia and then Gan-De, and maybe the Inner Ring would finally come to care when it was their turn to freeze to death as the sun collapsed.

A leisurely extinction. One that allowed everyone to push any inconvenience to another place or another generation.

The Vela is part of a fascinating sort of new/old model: serialized fiction. In this case (formerly Serial Box) is putting out piles of audio fiction by a number of well known authors chapter by chapter. And yet… somehow I read the ebook version from the library. I really should check out the audio versions.

In any case, The worldbuilding (as in the above quote) in the Vela is fascinating. A nearish-future tech sci-fi universe where humanity has managed to extract enough resources from the local star to freeze out the outer planets, wrecking all manner of havoc among the people that live out there. There’s all manner of classism, racism, and other racisms to digest…

Set against the backdrop of a missing starship (the Vela) and the two unlikely companions (Asala and Niko) who are sent to go find it. I’m glad to see Becky Chambers as one of the authors here, I really love how she does ‘people stories’. I haven’t yet read the other three authors, but they’re all on my to-read shelf already and higher up now. 😄

The relationship between Asala (hard bitten mercenary/sniper) and Nike (child of the president; hacker) throughout the stories is really the shining jewel of the series. It’s interesting to see the slight (IMO) variations between how the different authors see and write them, but it’s still well worth reading.

Well well worth a read. Or a listen. And Season 2 is on Realm? Onward!

People spoke about the death of planets as if the rock itself would shatter, but the truth was never so dramatic. The entire sphere wasn’t in danger of ceasing to exist. All that mattered was the inner goings-on of that tiny strip of gauze, that onion skin of atmosphere clinging to the rocky surface like morning dew. The narrowest of margins on which everything depended.

Reviews and snippets for each story. Latter stories may have spoilers for the earlier ones. You have been warned.

1. A Leisurely Extinction

  • by SL Huang

High tech guns, a hearing aide turned off to focus, remote controlled sniper rifles, robot spiders, space racism and refugees, water wars, and climate change writ solar. Quite a start. It’s neat sci if worldbuilding.

Characterwise, we have stoic gun for hire Asala who’s good at what she does, the President who seems innocent enough, the creepy general with spider bots, and the President’s young son turned idealistic hacker Niko.

“… And I have specialties in network accessibility and computer security.”

“You mean you’re a hacker?”

Niko half-smiled. “We don’t call it that when it’s for the government.”

From one who does that sort of thing for a living… I like them.

It’s an interesting start. A self contained first story, but there’s obviously a long way to go yet.

2. The Third Passenger

  • by Becky Chambers

🎵 Leaving… on a spaceship 🎵

With unexpected passengers along for the ride. Sounds right up Becky Chamber’s alley.

A dinner that goes… well. Watching slapstick comedy together that goes … surprisingly almost better. Hacking and computer stuff… both good and bad.

3. The Death-Cold

  • by Rivers Solomon

The heist!

“Made some breakthroughs,” Niko said. “Was able to get past most of Simya’s company’s firewalls. The password system isn’t that secure because they’re made to change it every month. You’d think that’d make things more difficult to hack, but it just means people are more likely to have variations on the same password over and over again. Dog1234 one month, for example; then the next, Dog2345; then Dog3456; and so on. It also means people tend to write their passwords down or store them electronically in messages, computer notepads, etc. Those things are on people’s personal devices, less secure, and easy for me to hack almost in-stantly. I’ve got a program running through emails people sent to themselves looking for specific sorts of combinations of numbers, symbols, and letters. Got some hits, but none for administrators yet. It’ll come though. Another couple of hours, tops.”

Hilarious to see written out like that—I do that sort of thing for a living. And entirely too true.

Just don’t promise what you may not be able to deliver.

4. Camp Ghala

  • by SL Huang

“Pull the manual seal!” someone had screamed, and then the ship wrenched around them, the sound vibrating through every atom of their bodies. Upward and downward canted as the artificial gravity went, and Asala twisted in the air, detritus and grasping human bodies and pieces of the fucking ship levitating around her in the darkness. Asala scrabbled for a bulkhead, but that wouldn’t help; this whole damn ship was about to go if you could call it a ship, if you could call any of these scrap heaps “ships” that the refugees cobbled together and flung into space with a wish and a prayer—

Well that’s a start.

The camp, the refugees… they’re in space? On a bunch of junked ships and really just straight junk all stuck together however it could be?

That’s quite the visual.

And finally… answers. And more questions.

5. The Heart of the Web

  • by Yoon Ha Lee

So now we’re really getting an idea of what’s going on here. The fading sun is just a backdrop, the cause of the current problems. But it’s the Vela that’s core to what’s coming.

Watching Niko and Asala’s relationship–and especially the latter’s view of the former–grow over the course of these stories is excellent.

6. Fortress World

  • by Rivers Solomon

Split and Scatter.

Oh my.

“It’s just, how can you ever know what to do when you’re just a small piece in a small maze, one tiny subsection of a labyrinth that stretches back centuries?” asked Asala. These weren’t real choices. She was unable to undo anything that had been done. Her only option was focusing on the task at hand, and she couldn’t figure out why Niko didn’t see that.

7. The Traitor

  • by Becky Chambers

Cynwrig point of view? Unexpected. Fascinating.

And back to our “heroes”:

“Something bit me.” Niko rubbed the stinging spot on the back of their neck and looked warily at the flying things. “Are any of these poisonous?”



“Poison’s passive. You have to eat it or touch it. Venom’s something that something else injects into you. Insects are venomous.”

That’s always a fun–if mostly useless–tidbit. Fun to see it here.

The relationship between Niko and Asala is really the shining star of the stories, for better or worse. For better and worse.

8. Gravity

  • by SL Huang

Dropping gravity bombs and hope. And one has to wonder… which will do more damage.

9. The Battle of Gan-De, Part I

  • by Yoon Ha Lee

Well that’s absolute chaos. Radically unmatched forces, the chaos of an evacuation with no where near enough seats for everyone, and the big reveals that have been building all book.

10. The Battle of Gan-De, Part II

  • by Becky Chambers

She’d told them all to run full tilt and unarmed through a war field. And they had listened. They listened because they trusted her.

Well crap.

“We are halfway between home and Ryne.” Their nearest moon. “Halfway. Kima, I ask this with all the respect in the world, but- you are aware that a wormhole has gravity, right? It has mass. It’s not an empty door. It’s an object, a big object, and they just dropped it right-_”

Well double crap.

And now we rush headlong through the rather explosive conclusion.