“My palms burn where I cut them clinging to the emergency ladder. Panic swells in me, a great wall of dark water rising and rising until there is no sky. It's not real, I tell myself. But it is. It's always inside me, always, guarding the passage back to my childhood and the Gyre, waiting to drown me if I stray too close.”
Sound is the stand alone companion to Alexandra Duncan's incredible debut novel, Salvage. It is the story of Miyole, the younger foster sister of Ava, the hero of Salvage. You don't need to read Salvage to understand Sound, or vice versa, but there would be a few spoilers for Salvage if you read this one first. Sound stands on its own as a brilliant, fast paced, feminist adventure in space, packed with adventure, diversity and believable characters you can care about.
Miyole is now fully grown (physically at least, though she has some maturing to do) and exploring the universe on her own. All her life she has dreamed of travelling in space as a Deep Sound engineer. Now at sixteen, Miyole's dream is finally within her grasp. Then on her very first space voyage her ship runs across a smaller vessel that has been attacked by pirates. One of the survivors, a young woman about Miyole's own age named Cassia, is determined to rescue her brother who was taken by the pirates. Smitten with Cassia and remembering her own rescue from the storm in the Gyre, Miyole finds herself willing to risk everything to help Cassia bring him back.
Sound is faster paced than Salvage, making it a quicker read. There is a lot of action, including gunfights, explosions and a battle with giant underwater worms. Duncan also has a bit of fun with some classic sci fi tropes, like the cat being smuggled aboard (as in Alien, Red Dwarf etc.) and the exploration of a creepy derelict space station.
It's refreshing to see a young adult novel with so much diversity in its characters. In addition to being Haitian but raised in India, Miyole is a lesbian. Her crush on Cassia is important to the plot, but her sexuality is otherwise not made out to be a big deal. Cassia and her family are white. The majority of the exploration ship's crew are Indian, and the population of the moon the characters visit is a mixture of Swedish and Japanese, with a fascinatingly intermingled culture. The issues of race, class, gender and sexuality are smoothly handled.
Sound is an exciting young adult sci fi novel, which is important for its diversity and feminist themes. It's a great follow up to Salvage, and I hope there are more books to come set in the same universe.