By: Jonathan Nevair
Genre: Science Fiction/Adult LGBTQ+
Publisher: Shadow Spark Publishing
Content Warning: death of child (mentioned), death of sibling, verbal/emotional abuse, torture (mentioned), graphic death, genocide, colonialism, graphic violence, trauma
“It’s a complicated and costly endeavor, seeking retribution. When I think back on those who didn’t make it through our struggle, I’m reminded of the way the credits roll at the end of a beautiful tragedy. The nostalgic music makes it all seem worth it…. That every life lost was given so that the way things ended made up for it.” Razor (J. Nevair, Goodbye to the Sun)
In his debut novel, Goodbye to the Sun, Jonathan Nevair creates a world of science fiction that encompasses brilliantly developed characters in a story of love, loss, deception and tragedy. Keen Draden, ambassador and veteran of the Energy Patent War on the planet Heroon, is now a selfish, drunk, arrogant, broken man suffering from severe trauma and guilt of his service. Razor, a resistance fighter on her home planet of Kol 2, carries her own suffering from losing her partner and imprisonment of her children. She crosses paths with Keen when they plan to abduct him to gain access to resources and representation. Jati is Keen’s friend and veteran of the Patent War. While they also suffer from PTSD, they have channeled it into selling merchandise, some of which is illegal and supplied to resistance fighters. LGBTQ+ representation is added into the genre by including gender fluidity and a non-binary character. At a certain age, everyone, no matter where they are from, either chooses a gender or does not. It is highly disrespectful for anyone not to inquire what another’s gender is upon meeting them.
The story is first told from Razor in the first-person perspective. Subsequent chapters switch from her to the third person perspective of Keen. Razor’s narrative throughout the book tells of the events as she lived them and only adds to the emotional impact. From the outset, the reader knows how the book will end. As the three characters travel together, ultimately going to Heroon, the past trauma begins to unravel as we learn more about them. Keen is one of the most complex characters that I’ve encountered. His guilt and pain are overwhelming and the wall he has built to hide it begins to crumble. I felt both anger and compassion for him as his story arc was revealed. Razor was also compelling in her narrative as we know her suffering and what she feels she must do for those she loves. This book was a gut-wrenching emotional ride from the start, that ultimately left me in tears. It is beautifully written and I highly recommend it.
Summary (from Storytellers on Tour)
Tucked away in the blue sands of Kol 2, the Motes are on the brink of cultural collapse. Razor, a bold and daring pilot, leads a last-ditch gambit against their local oppressors, the Targitians. The plan – abduct visiting Ambassador Keen Draden and use him as a bargaining chip to restore her people’s independence in the Sagittarius Arm. But when the operation unravels, Razor is forced to renegotiate terms with the arrogant diplomat. Battling furious Wind Tides and pursuit by an infamous bounty hunter, Razor and Keen find mutual assistance in a dubious freelancer with a knack for exposing cracks in people’s pride.
Light years away on Heroon a radical resistance blossoms. The alluring rainforest planet haunts Keen. All his problems started there during the Patent War, but it’s where Razor’s troubles may find a solution. The moral tide ebbs, exposing an impossible choice that links their futures together more tragically than they ever thought possible.
Goodbye to the Sun – a nonstop thrill ride across an unstable galaxy, combining moral struggle and character-driven adventure.
This is very character driven story. However, it is still science fiction. It is clearly evident in space travel, artificial intelligence, and advanced technology. The most intriguing and disturbing technology, especially for me as an Environmental Scientist, was the terraforming technology. The ability to take a planet, alive with tremendous biodiversity, and destroy it all for the sake of greed. Planets are turned to desert wastelands to harness wind energy. A monopoly controls it, so some have access, while others do not. The rebellion on Heroon, where the war took place, is about the planet’s native population taking control to harvest their own energy. I saw this as a metaphor of what we are doing to our own planet by destroying ecosystems for greed, causing mass extinction, and global warming. Is this what we could become?
In the beginning, Mr. Nevair states that Goodbye to the Sun is loosely based on Antigone. Antigone is a tragedy by Sophocles written about 441 BC. Suffice to say, these characters will take you through every emotion they feel. You will feel it, and in the end, you wonder what they could have done differently. It’s brilliant writing and brilliant characters.
I have already introduced the characters that are the main protagonists. They are all damaged in some way from past trauma. It is Jati that appears to have dealt with it the best. They face down the horror, but do not forget. Keen has too much damage to ever be whole again, but he has a complete character arc. From the drunk, self-obsessed ambassador with PTSD, he completes a redemption arc. Razor and Keen’s paths were destined to cross. He was the object of her wrath and pain. Razor’s narrative continually speaks to her deception of her own feelings, how she lies to herself and ultimately tries to forgive herself.
Plot and Pacing
The plot of this book was so unique for science fiction. Taking a Greek tragedy and using the base material for a science fiction novel put a new twist to the genre. The focus is the characters, and in effect what the science has actually done to them. The science fiction part was very well developed. It is precisely what causes the turmoil and tragedy for the characters.
The pacing was excellent. It is evenly paced so that action scenes were interspersed with more one on one character development. There were many twists and turns that were revealed along the way, but nothing was rushed, there was no repetitiveness to the plot.
I am very impressed with Jonathan Nevair’s debut science fiction novel, Goodbye to the Sun. The idea to use Anitgone as base material made for a beautiful, tragic story against the backdrop of scientific technology. Keen, Razor and Jati were deeply flawed and troubled. Their story arcs were complete, they developed throughout the book, and ultimately came to terms with the demons that haunted them and faced the consequences of their actions. Gender fluidity included in this novel was not forced, it was simply part of the overall culture of the entire system they lived in. The terraforming planets into desert wastelands to harvest wind energy drives much of the narrative of the Patent War and rebellions. While this is novel is an emotional ride from start to finish, I highly recommend it for everyone, not just fans of science fiction. I look forward to the next book.
You can see more information about Goodbye to The Sun and Jonathan Nevair on his website at https://www.jonathannevair.com/