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The Universe After #1

The Stars Now Unclaimed

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From Book 1:

Drew Williams's The Stars Now Unclaimed, the first volume of The Universe After series, is a fun, adventure-filled space opera set in a far-future galaxy.

"The only thing more fun than a bonkers space battle is a whole book packed with bonkers space battles. Come for the exploding spaceships, stay for the intriguing universe."Becky Chambers, author of A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Jane Kamali is an agent for the Justified. Her mission: to recruit children with miraculous gifts in the hope that they might prevent the Pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages.

Hot on her trail is the Pax--a collection of fascist zealots who believe they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy and who remain untouched by the Pulse.

Now Jane, a handful of comrades from her past, and a telekinetic girl called Esa must fight their way through a galaxy full of dangerous conflicts, remnants of ancient technology, and other hidden dangers.

And that's just the beginning . . .

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

400 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 21, 2018

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Drew Williams

3 books126 followers

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5 stars
397 (24%)
4 stars
682 (41%)
3 stars
418 (25%)
2 stars
107 (6%)
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33 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 393 reviews
Profile Image for Dee Arr.
734 reviews90 followers
August 8, 2018
There are so many good things about this novel that one might believe that it sprouted from the mind of an experienced author branching out into a new series. As a lover of sci-fi, I thoroughly enjoyed this tale of the future.

The world-building started early and continued throughout the entire book. Truthfully, it was more galaxy-building, as author Drew Williams deftly juggled the different races, introducing them to us at a pace that managed to inform me without being a confusing jumble. Throughout the book, we learned more about the history of the galaxy, its planets and inhabitants, and its politics. Mr. Williams primarily used conversations to inform us, thus lessening the feel of receiving “information dumps.” Creation of a universe for the characters to travel in is the author’s five-star achievement.

Characters were fleshed out, making it easy for me to identify with them. Jane, of course, is the most easily understood, as she relates the story. While she is intelligent and can be humorous, she falls well short of the snarky female we see ad nauseam in many of today’s stories. Her companions are interesting, to say the least. Mr. Williams entertains us with aliens, a teenager who is blessed with telekinetic gifts, and an AI who is angry because her “race” can no longer reproduce and is threatened with extinction.

The storyline is good, and the action is reminiscent of an Indiana Jones or a Han Solo, other heroes who strive to accomplish the near impossible and usually succeed. I thought the battle scenes were some of the best I have read in a long time. Not too technical and never diving into the minutiae of what was happening, the action continually moved forward. For those who are adrenaline junkies, the small battles to outright war scenes encompass a good part of the book.

This is a book that could be read by adults as well as younger readers. I say could, because the profanity occurs more frequently than necessary. In most instances, I felt it did nothing to enhance the story or the characters, thus only serving to reduce the number of potential readers. I don’t usually reduce stars for excessive/unnecessary profanity, and I include this as an fyi to those who prefer to steer clear of f-bombs and the like.

Overall, a fun, entertaining read with a clear ending and only a hint that the author might expand his universe with a second book. Recommended for those who enjoy sci-fi or love a lot of adventure and action. Four stars.

My thanks to MacMillan Tor/Forge and Tor Books for an advance complimentary copy of this book.
Profile Image for Monica.
538 reviews177 followers
September 3, 2018
Wow! Simply fantastic science fiction! Reminded me of the first time I read Star Wars - EPIC!!

I loved the world building, the characters, even the villains were super interesting. The majority of the story is action. But it never feels forced or hard to follow.

We don’t discover our main character’s most basic info, her name, until halfway through the story. It adds to her mystique. She is one of the most hard core soldiers I’ve read. Her job is to rescue “gifted” teenagers and bring them to a safe place. Through one girl, eventually we learn she does have feelings hidden under the layers of armor.

I highly recommend the book for all lovers of science fiction and sincerely hope to visit this world again!

Many thanks to NetGalley and publishers for the free book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Nina.
1,016 reviews9 followers
April 20, 2018
The Stars Now Unclaimed IS a good space opera. If you’re in the mood for a book that is the equivalent of reading Star Wars, this may be for you. However, I personally prefer Star Wars on the screen, and while some elements of this novel were clearly developed and well thought through, there were a couple of things that just made it impossible for me to rate it a 3:

1. The plot, while developed, is basically a string of fight sequences. While some may love this, it just wasn’t for me. I wanted more substance from the plot, not just fight after fight that were basically all the same. By the third sequence, I just skimmed through. The only fight I really found interesting was the very last one, which was unfortunately rushed. I could have done with scrapping one of the earlier sequences and adding more meat to this one.
2. The protagonist constantly goes on and on and on about how big the galaxy is...yet there are only maybe 5 species mentioned? All of which are basically some super-evolved versions of animals you can find on earth? Yeah, I can’t quite buy that.
3. The characters aren’t that interesting. They’re not the worst I’ve ever read about by far, but they seemed a bit one dimensional. I.e. my name is spoiler and I’m a tough fighter who does nothing but fight and make snarky comments. I need more than that! We got a bit of vulnerability at the end, but I needed to see more of that so much earlier on.

I know it seems like this review is one massive rant of negativity, and I don’t want it to seem that way because it isn’t a bad book. It’s also worth bearing in mind that this is an advanced review copy - I have no clue if anything will change before its release in August, so this review may be completely inaccurate by then. But from my read of this version, I have to give it 2 stars, which are for books that don’t meet my expectations and struggle to keep my attention. It’s a good space opera but not at the level I expected from the synopsis.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,773 reviews208 followers
September 12, 2019
I totally enjoyed this story my second time through. I liked the fast-moving plot, the wry narration, and interactions between the characters, and the ethical questions they raised. I definitely want to read the next installment of this series.

This story was such a hoot! With a constantly moving and fighting protagonist whose own name she doesn't speak till more than halfway through the story for reasons she explains, this space opera is tense and fast-paced with plenty of action.
It's sometime in the future, and there are countless, settled worlds with different species and with varying low levels of functioning technology, thanks to something called the Pulse. The Pulse is a form of radiation that was initiated on one planet a century ago, but something went wrong. Intended to knock out the tech at that planet, the Pulse actually ended up travelling outwards into the galaxy, destroying tech at each planet it passed over. The only tech left intact were members of the Barius, a sentient robot species. (The Pulse's science is hand-wavey, so don't get focused on it.)
This unintended technological destruction ended some wars, stranded countless billions on planets, lost all sorts of information, and paved the way for the rise of a sect calling themselves the Pax, who see their domination over everyone else (or destruction, you pick) as the right and only way. An opposing sect, the Justified, of which our protagonist is a member, study the Pulse. They've noticed another side effect of the Pulse (other than tech-munching): kids born with unusual powers. Like the girl Esa our main character is looking for on a planet at the beginning of the story. Almost immediately after she (main character) encounters Preacher, a member of the Barius, the Pax arrive on planet with the intent of capturing the girl and enslaving others.
Main character Jane (I'm just going to use her name from here on out since it's on the book's blurb and it's tiresome repeatedly typing 'main character'), the Preacher and the girl, Esa, are on the run. And really, from this point on in the story, it's run, shoot, fly, shoot, run,....you get the picture. Instead of this being tiresome, these scenes are well done, and you get the sense that Jane is really, really good at what she does (the running and shooting). Esa is definitely a teenager, but instead of being annoying, she's written believably. You also get the sense that there's a lot more going on with Preacher than you initially think.
My favourite characters (other than Jane) in this book are actually the AIs Preacher and Scheherazade, Jane’s ship. Both are well-defined, and engage in interesting debates with each other and other characters, and are handled by the author in a much more respectful and well-rounded way than I typically find in popular entertainment. It was a bit weird at first, however, to hear both Preacher and Sheherazade use profanity when interacting with other types of beings, but after a while I began to appreciate their colourful use of language, their opinions and feelings.
For a light, action-packed and funny space opera, Drew Williams kept me engaged and now interested in the next installment.
Profile Image for Sarah Esmae Wolfe.
169 reviews80 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
August 17, 2018
DNF @ pg. 50

Did I not give this book enough of a chance? Maybe. Will I pick it up again? Maybe.

We started off with several things I don't like. First being the typical male written female lead. She was cold and unemotional, which I find to be strangely common in books written by men. Is this what they think it's like inside our heads?


Next is also a problem I had with the main character: she is nameless. Which is a pet-peeve of mine. It's almost like when you don't name a pet so you don't get attached to it, which is exactly the opposite of what I want from a book. I want a character I can love and root for. In fact, I didn't even know she was a woman until the end of the first chapter. It was giving me Annihilation vibes, which was my top pick for books I wished I DNFed last year, because I just didn't get it.

Next was the writing style. It was very practical and uninviting. Just the facts, ma'am. And the overuse of random italics — and em dashes — were killing me. It's a bad combination to have punctuation quirks and a story I'm not into enough to not care. So unless this book gets a lot of hype after it's published and I realize I quit too early, it's a no from me.


*I received an advanced copy from Tor Publishing for my honest review*
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,096 reviews408 followers
August 21, 2018
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

Well, I have to admit that this was just an okay read.  One of me crew, Sarah @ theillustratedpage's review, accurately described it as:

"The majority of The Stars Now Unclaimed is action scenes. I really can’t emphasize how much of this book is action. You mainly get a few paragraphs or pages between various huge action set pieces, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for anything other than action. It was a bit like a Hollywood blockbuster in book form."

Hollywood action film indeed.  The characters are fun.  Ye have the hardened snarky daredevil female fighter pilot, an analytical robot, the ship AI, and the rescued orphan girl with telekinetic powers who might one day save the world.  Later ye add in the traitor who happens to be the soldier's ex-lover and the spy.  But while I liked them, there is very little depth to any of them.  The dialogue is full of catchy one-liners but nothing of major substance.  The bad guys are all literally interchangeable faceless guys in suits with no names, no real intellectual reasoning, and no goals other than to take over the universe.

The science-fiction part is also Hollywood-lite.  There was a "pulse" which was a science experiment gone wrong.  It knocked out the technology in the universe with very little rhyme or reason.  Some places keep their technology and other places have gone back into the stone age.  The threat of the pulse is still out there and it's gonna come back.  There is no real explanation for how it works.  The main characters says things like "I can't walk you through it all that well, I'm not a - I don't do science - " and "do I look like I'm wearing a lab coat?  I know what the scientists tell me . . ."  The use of the technology doesn't really make sense either.  Things work or don't work depending on what the author needed to happen to forward the plot.  Logic doesn't really suffice.

Actually that was me major problem with this read - the sheer unbelievably of the plot in general.  There are the many, many lucky coincidences that happen throughout.  There is the last-ditch, one-chance effort against all costs.  There is the main character who is charmed and somehow evades death at every possibility - despite poison, bullets, overwhelming legions  of enemies, and everything but the kitchen sink.  The battle is saved through the actions of a single person.  Remove the main character and the universe is doomed.

Me most recent science fiction reads have had depth of character, plot, and world-building.  In comparison, this be a pleasant, if forgettable read.  I will not be reading any more of the series.  I might have enjoyed it more in movie format.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Macmillian-Tor/Forge!

Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,268 reviews231 followers
September 1, 2018
The Stars Now Unclaimed starts off with a bang, dropping us and the protagonist straight into an epic mission, that leads us so much further than we could have imagined when first it began.

Jane is an agent for the Justified, a sect that have made it their mission to find and retrieve "special" children throughout the galaxy. Naturally, this mission doesn't go quite as planned, when it's interrupted by the overpowering invasion of those known as the "Pax". The peace of their name is the one they mean to establish by conquering the known galaxy, or at least wiping out all those who would oppose them. The ensuing chaos is only a signal of what is to come, as Jane finds out she just might have the key to preventing the destruction of her world.

It's a more serious story than I went in expecting - I'd heard tales of space raptors and Firefly comparisons, and expected this to be quite light-hearted. It's not grim, but this is definitely a serious novel - the stakes are never in doubt and they're immense. The scale of the universe was communicated much more effectively than is usually managed - though it did lead to some tantalising glimpses of other races and worlds that were never explored as much as they should have been.

Overall a very satisfying read and an impressive debut from Drew Williams. It'll be interesting to see where it's taken from here!
Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for providing a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 150 books37.5k followers
August 12, 2018
Rip-roaring space opera adventure, with a strong emphasis on adventure.

From the blurb: Jane Kamali is an agent for the Justified. Her mission: to recruit children with miraculous gifts in the hope that they might prevent the Pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages.

Hot on her trail is the Pax--a collection of fascist zealots who believe they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy and who remain untouched by the Pulse.

Jane is nameless through the first half, but since the blurb offers it right up, just know that there’s a reason she doesn’t share her name until way past the midpoint of her first person narrative.

This narrative is breezily profane in the way of soldiers in the field, demonstrating up close and personal awareness of weaponry, close in tactics as well as long-term strategy. The big scenes are all (but one, a fractious council meeting) battles, so know that going in. If you like big space opera battle, along with mysterious powers and the world not quite as cut and dried as people think, which I do, then you should enjoy this series.

I do hope the final product gets a better proofing, and toward the end the constantly italicized words began to distract me like fleabites, but even past all that I really liked teenaged Esa, the AI Preacher, and Marus the green guy, and especially Jane and Javi.

Looking forward to more in this series.

Copy provded by NetGalley
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews227 followers
August 4, 2019
Action-packed scifi that reminds me strongly of Star Wars in all the best ways.

Jane Kamali and her sentient starship Scheherazade are on a mission to find children with special powers and bring them to Sanctum. The galaxy has been devastated by the Pulse, a pervasive radiation field that degrades technology on every planet it touches to varying extents. On a planet badly affected by the Pulse, Jane finds a uniquely powerful young human girl and a Barious that calls itself Preacher that seems determined to help protect her. And protection is what she needs as her powers have also attracted the Pax, a sect of drugged-out brainwashed fascists bent on conquering the whole galaxy.

The world-building here is great, from a galaxy that seems endless and populated by many sentient species, to even including a possible explanation as to why all of them are somewhat similar (mostly bipedal and oxygen-breathing) and became space-faring in a similar time frame. And the alien races are given all sorts of depth, from the synthetic Barious who've lost the ability to reproduce due to the Pulse, to the reptilian Reint whose path to civilization is very different to other races. There's actually a huge amount of exposition going on throughout the book, but it never feels artificial as the book just never lets up on the action.

My only concern here is that in places the book just feels a little too much like Star Wars and I found myself drawing comparisons between the characters here and the movie (Jane is clearly Han Solo and Esa is Luke etc). In a lot of ways the first part of the book feels like a mashup of the first halves of a New Hope and the Empire Strikes Back, and the last third feels like the assault of Yavin at the end of the first movie. But that being said, its enough of its own thing to be incredibly entertaining in its own right.

Looking forward to the sequel.
Profile Image for Ed.
464 reviews13 followers
June 14, 2019
Snark wars: Episode IV: There's No Hope

This is a bad book- and this review of it will be harsh. I do not believe it to be completely indefensible, but it frustrated me so much, and I struggle to comprehend the mindset that would enjoy this sort of thing.

When I read sci-fi, I want one of a few things. Not all of them are big asks, but you be the judge of that. I'd like to explore interesting new locales, or times. I'd like to be wowed with technology and imagination. I'd like to see how these elements have shaped the societies that inhabit them, or vice versa- and this often ties in to social commentary. Sometimes I just want a bit of fun escapism! This book fulfils absolutely none of these desires. Worse than that, it fails to fulfil the basic ideals of storytelling, let alone sci-fi; it doesn't have characters, it barely has plot, and it lacks internal consistency.
There may be some people who, when they want to read sci-fi, think this sort of book would be for them. I'm going to piss them off by telling them that actually what they want is to go and watch Star Wars. Maybe I can win some of them back: Whizz! Bang! Kapow kapow! Lasers! Snarky comment! Zoom!

Let's tackle some of these points specifically, and hone in on some of the worse parts of the novel.
We follow a 'grizzled mercenary' cardboard-cut-out snark dispenser. Maybe in another book this would have been a character with thoughts, feelings or something along those lines. She picks up a teenage snark-dispenser and a robotic snark-dispenser, and they all go through a serious of explosions together dispensing snark as freely as they dispense mass murder.
Seriously there is so much murder in this book- horrific mindless mass murder of the 'other', the 'enemy', with whom there is no attempt at reasoning, because (and so we are told by our POV mass-murderer), they are irredeemable mass murderers. There seems to be no hint of irony here, I really wish there were; then we could potentially have some interesting commentary about the danger of intense in-group psychology, and the narratives that other types of people are somehow less than ourselves. But no, what we have here is "Wow, fun! Mass murder! At least I can explode some things conscience free!"

There is little to make this really sci-fi, we have interplanetary travel but it could very equally be set on the ground without apparent difference to the plot. To be honest a large part of this feels like it 'wants' to be a super standard, nineties action film with your Duke-Nukem style protagonist. Except the auther has just enough self-awareness to understand that such stuff no longer flies, so instead we have the barely better 'grizzled, emotionally distant badarse woman soldier' trope. And such wonderful sections as "They don't really have gender, But I'm calling them all She because I'm so progressive aren't I?"
You don't get a medal for not being a dick, mate. And pointing it out does you no favours at all.
But yeah, back from the virtue-signalling to the useless sci-fi. We have a non-defined 'pulse, which has lowered technology to exactly the level that it needs to be for the plot to work in a certain area. Except when the plot needs to ignore these restrictions, which it does with abandon. Just the fluctuation of "Wow, this is way too many living human beings for me to mass-murder with my guns, better call in an airstrike to mass-murder them more efficiently!" to having to fight hand-to-hand because the handwavium has disabled your mass-murdering airstrikes. Until you need extracting by the same spacecraft, and then they're unaffected? Ok?

What this means is there are precisely zero stakes, because any resolution could be pulled out of thin air. And when YOUR ENTIRE BLOODY BOOK is tedious battle scenes, you really need some stakes. Or some characters for us to care about, rather than the aforementioned cardboard cut-outs that get pushed from explosion to explosion, pausing occasionally to dispense snark.

A crude and tasteless novel that misses the mark in just about every way imaginable. Do not read this. If you have read it, and enjoyed it, you're probably a bad person. I certainly feel worse for having read it.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,155 reviews311 followers
August 30, 2019
This was a book I really wanted to like, but for some reason (perhaps related to my life circumstances at the moment) I just never felt fully engaged with. I'm definitely in the minority though, and I'm not totally ruling out picking up the sequel.
Profile Image for Toya (the reading chemist).
1,184 reviews115 followers
April 9, 2019
This was introduction into reading space operas, and it most definitely will not be my last. The entire time I was reading this book, I felt like I was watching Star Wars, which is an absolute favorite of mine. I loved getting to know the different worlds and species that the author created.

From the beginning, this book is packed with action. We are introduced to Jane Kamali (alongside her AI battle ship name Scheherazade aka Schaz) who is on a mission from a sect called the Justified and the Repentant (super-soldiers) to recruit children who were gifted with powers from The Pulse. It is quite clear that Jane and Schaz do not share the typical captain/AI relationship. They have been together since before The Pulse and have been through A LOT together. These two are the ultimate ass-kicking team. Additionally, most AI ships have their personalities rebooted every so often to prevent them from becoming defiant. Jane thinks that this is barbaric and allows Schaz to develop her own personality, which is utterly hilarious (Schaz was definitely one of my favorite characters).

While Jane is in the process of locating Esa, a 14-year-old girl who has incredible telekinesis powers, the Pax (think hardcore storm troopers who dose themselves with narcotics through their helmets) is already laying siege to the technologically inept town. Jane teams up with a Barious named Preacher (a machine race…I honestly kept picturing Sonny from I, Robot but the female version) to secure Esa aboard Schaz and flee the approaching Pax warships.

The Pax were unaffected by The Pulse, which gives them a sense of superiority when it comes to everyone else in the galaxy. Their motto is the strong deserve to be in power and the weak are enslaved to submit to the strong. Anyone who they deem as strong is captured, brainwashed, and drugged to create the ultimate soldier for their cause. The Justified want to keep the gifted children out of the hands of the Pax, which is why Jane must avoid them at all costs.

As Preacher, Jane, Esa, and Schaz continue their voyage to deliver Esa to Sanctum (a hub where The Justified and the Repentant train the gifted children for their own cause), we really begin to get insight into the backstory of these different characters. Jane has a lot of answers regarding the dying Barious race (caused by The Pulse), which infuriates Preacher. Preacher constantly refers to Schaz as ‘shackled’, which creates a great deal of animosity between them. Also, Preacher has secrets of her own regarding Esa.

Overall, I thought this story was well done. From start to finish, it is battle after battle for survival. This unlikely group must band together in order to save the galaxy from any future destruction from The Pulse as well as the wrath of the Pax. Even though secrets are revealed and motives are questioned, they refuse to leave each other behind. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the sequel to see how their stories continue.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster UK for providing me a copy of this book for review. This did not influence my review, and all opinions are my own
Profile Image for Alan.
1,121 reviews112 followers
November 22, 2018
On every world, there are always men with guns. Even the pulse couldn't change that.
The "pulse" is... well, it's why all those stars are now unclaimed, in The Stars Now Unclaimed. The pulse is a wave of radiation (of some sort; at least, it acts like radiation) that—it says here—tore through the Galaxy about a hundred years before Drew Williams' debut novel begins, knocking every inhabited planet, moon and terraformed asteroid back down at least a rung or two on the technological ladder. The pulse is why our at-first-unnamed protagonist and her plucky ship Scheherezade (Schaz for short) can't just land on the planet (also unnamed) where the book starts. And... the pulse, or its consequences, is why they're visiting that planet in the first place.

You really do need to bring your WSoD to this one, though. Even though the pulse is described in scientific terms throughout The Stars Now Unclaimed, and is in some ways an admirably parsimonious concept with lots of neat plot drivers, it's hard to see how any sort of "radiation" could interfere with, say, internal combustion engines—and that's even before we find out just why Schaz is dropping Our Heroine (Jane. Her name is Jane) onto that particular unnamed, pulse-ravaged planet in the first place. One of the characters even marvels, "it's just one big 'fuck you' to physics" (or words to that effect—sorry, I'm paraphrasing, and have no page number for this citation, but the words "fuck you" and "physics" definitely appear in the same sentence).

I did find it, later on; this is what Jane says:
"The whole concept was a 'fuck off' to the very idea of physics."

The Stars Now Unclaimed must've been written episodically, too; I noticed several places where we're told one thing, then a page or so later we're told a different thing that (at first glance, anyway) contradicts the earlier information—such as when the "distinctive report" of a gauss rifle turns into how silent and deadly its faster-than-sound projectiles are. That one's not inherently contradictory, perhaps, but I still did a double-take until I'd worked it through.

The Stars Now Unclaimed is, most definitely, an eventful novel, though—amid all the gunfights and fistfights and space battles and chases through hyperspace, you might not even notice the occasional inconsistency.

Alongside the nearly nonstop action, Williams serves up some snappy dialog—as in Ch. 24:
"And me?" Esa asked. "What should I do?"
"Sit there, shut up, and watch. This likely won't be the last space combat you'll see, and you'll need to understand it before we're through."
"Does that mean I'm—"
"The 'shutting up' part of your instructions is also key."

I really liked Scheherezade, too—not that a snarky ship's AI is all that original, but this version's still a lot of fun:
"Schaz? Find me a moon. There are at least a handful hanging over the world. I need—"
"Oh, no. No no no. No, no, no. You're not planning—"
"Yes I am, which means you know what to look for."
"I do not like this plan. This plan does not work as well as you—"
"It does work; it works every time."
"Every time here meaning 'twice.' I don't care how good of a pilot you are, this plan always—"
"You just don't like it because it scratches up your paint job. That's—"
"Yes, that's why I don't like it; that is exactly why I don't like it. This design came straight from the easel of MelWill herself, and I hate seeing it—"
There's more to this exchange, but I think I'll stop there.

Drew Williams is based in Alabama, and I saw traces of Southern syntax here and there—"a ways" and "broke out into a run" and even one intrusion of the dreaded "it is what it is" later on. (At least I didn't see any "git 'r dun"s.) But those are infrequent and even charming variations; mostly, Williams' prose is simple, fluid, and modern, especially in dialogue:
"Did you just fly us through a mountain?"
"At least two of the enemy craft couldn't pull up in time—got crushed by the rockfall," Schaz reported. "After that my scans were blocked by... well, you know. Mountain."

You get the gist—The Stars Now Unclaimed is often both cheesy and breezy, which is in fact a lot of its appeal. The unrelenting action gets a little exhausting about two-thirds of the way through, and the ending is predictable (hey, at least it has an ending)... but on the whole The Stars Now Unclaimed is a pretty credible first outing.

Oh, and now that you've read my review, you may also want to read a brief interview Williams did for Mary Robinette Kowal, in which he gets a little spoilery (but only a little) and provides some solid background for how The Stars Now Unclaimed is more than just another post-apocalyptic action-adventure space opera. The bio at the end of that post is the same paragraph that appears on the back-cover flap of the copy I read, and it contains the comment about Moby-Dick that—in part—persuaded me to read this book to begin with, too...
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews345 followers
September 17, 2018
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Carolyn Percy

The Pulse: it was supposed to deliver the galaxy from an endless cycle of war and violence. Instead, it caused chaos. It wiped out technology indiscriminately, leaving millions of worlds vulnerable to those who would use the opportunity to conquer them.

But the Pulse didn’t just wipe out technology, it changed people, giving some of them strange powers. Esa is one of those gifted, and the mercenary Kamali’s latest charge. Kamali is a member of ‘The Justified’, who for the past century have been trying to find a way to reverse the damage. They also believe that Esa and those like her may be the key. But there are others who would seek to use them for less noble aims. Naturally, Kamali’s mission to rescue Esa goes spectacularly wrong. She and a handful of allies find themselves having to navigate their way through an escalating conflict which she helped to start.

The novel has been listed as Tor.com’s ‘Best of 2018’, and praised by authors such as Becky Chambers and Claire North. Drew Williams’s debut is a good old-fashioned epic space opera filled with aliens, sentient starships, dogfights in space and combat on the ground. Alongside this are exotic locales, and a dollop of rumination on the role violence and war have in human nature and the concept of paying for one’s sins.

The novel kicks off when Kamali arrives on Esa’s planet. It’s a beautiful and picturesque place full of waves of pink and lilac wheat that the pulse has reduced, technologically and societally, to a kind of wild-west existence. We are introduced to our narrator, the world, and those who inhabit it—not just humanity, but also other races. The Tyll are reptilian in appearance but genetically closer to fauna, the canine-like Wulf. The Barious are a sentient machine race that are the legacy of a mysterious, long disappeared precursor race.

With the arrival of the Pax—an army of intergalactic conquerors, who were ironically unaffected by the Pulse. Determined to either capture Esa or make sure nobody else can causes the plot to hit the ground running. From then, it never really stops. The story becomes an extended chase culminating in a huge space battle as the ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ inevitably clash.

The novel is, therefore, very action heavy. There are pauses between the action but they can feel more like opportunities to introduce another character or plot development. Perhaps even to impart information to the reader, rather than providing a natural breathing space. Action sequences themselves are written in a way that they flow smoothly and still manage to convey the frenetic nature of combat, that the pages fly by. More importantly, they are always grounded in character—even if Kamali’s is the only viewpoint we see.

This brings us to the characters themselves. They are very well written—our band of main protagonists more so than secondary characters, obviously, but even they are memorable. The banter and growing relationships between them being particular highlights. By comparison our villains, the Pax, can feel flat, but this is somewhat deliberate. They literally see their members—dressing them head to toe in black with anonymising helmets—as a blank canvas to project their fascistic philosophy; a faceless conquering force. But if the black hats, for the moment, remain black hats, there’s some interesting moral flexibility amongst the good guys.

The Justified created the Pulse to end the violence and war throughout the universe, but recognised it as unrealistic. It was then to at least level the playing field by taking out the more apocalyptic technology capable of wiping out whole planets and systems. However, they didn’t fully understand what it was they were creating and so there were unintended ramifications. They recognise what they’ve done and intend to atone for it, either by finding a way to reverse the damage or to stop it from getting worse. However, doing so has caused them to become a little ruthless, a classic case ends justifying the means. This adds a welcome edge of moral complexity to what would otherwise be a standard (albeit very entertaining) story of good vs evil.

All in all, The Stars Now Unclaimed is a brilliant debut and a solid start to a new series. It definitely has the room to build upon and expand! If you like your sci-fi with a heavy dose of action or just love space opera in general, then this is a title definitely worth picking up.
Profile Image for Carlos.
621 reviews291 followers
February 8, 2019
Slow beginning but then the book takes on to a fast paced narrative that hooks you to the story and doesn't let go for the next 300 pages ....Awesome story and characters , well told battle scenes but if you are looking for a science fiction book that its not so centered in battles then this is not the book for you. There is a huge battle in the book and it takes at least 50% of the book length, I particularly like battle centered books so I loved this one. If you are like me then I highly recommend this book to you .
Profile Image for Shelley.
5,220 reviews462 followers
August 24, 2018
*Source* Publisher
*Genre* Science Fiction
*Rating* 3.5-4


The Stars Now Unclaimed is the first installment in author Drew Williams' The Universe After series. The story predicates on the theory that 1,000 years ago, the Pulse knocked worlds, most of them, back a few thousand years before spaceflight and electricity. The Pulse, which was supposed to stop wars and aggressive planets from conquering peaceful planets, wasn't a one time event. Some actually believe that the Pulse is building up strength, and will roll back even stronger and possibility deadlier than before.

*Full Review @ Gizmos Reviews*


Profile Image for Christi M.
345 reviews61 followers
June 16, 2019
There's just something about space battles that I love. Lucky for me this book is chock-full of them, leaving my sci-fi heart feeling pretty good after finishing this story.

In The Stars Now Unclaimed, Jane Kamali is tasked with finding children with special abilities and bringing them back to Sanctum. Years prior to this story the Pulse went through the galaxy sending thousands of worlds back to the dark ages. Some planets, however, were affected more than others. Now it is certain that the Pulse is coming again and Sanctum needs those children with special abilities to help find a way to stop it from doing even further damage. However, Jane is not the only one looking for these children. The Pax want them too, but in the Pax's case, they do not want the children to help the galaxy - they only to brainwash the children into helping the Pax conquer more worlds. And the Pax will destroy anything in its path to get them.

Every story needs good world-building, but none more so than in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Thankfully, this book delivers. Using an event called the Pulse, the author is able to explore different species, races, and sects and show us who they were and who they are now. The Pulse is like a blanket covering all the planets and species that binds the story together. No race or species was left untouched by the Pulse - they just were each affected differently and each to different degrees. Even if their home world was untouched, the new social order post-Pulse altered everything. It is a unique device to this story and to future stories in this series - not only because of what the potential harm the Pulse can create, but how they continue to recover from it, and the legacy of impact it left on different species.

Regarding the action - there is plenty to enjoy and scattered through-out the entire book, but there is also downtime too where you get a chance to understand the different characters, their species, and their perspectives on a range of subjects, which of course includes the Pulse. As a reader I was pleased to see that the action alternated from battles on planets to battles in space, so that you were never kept in one type of battle too long, while also providing the characters an opportunity to use a diverse list of strategies to obtain their objective and keep themselves alive. The battles were terrific - well written with a sense of urgency, but written in a way that was not only easy to understand but also easy to grasp the important of each strategic objective.

Overall, I found the book to be structured well with good plot pacing. It had everything you could want - space battles, daunting missions, AIs with personality, and even pirates. The characters were relatable in a sci-fi way and the race distinctions were easily understood. I also appreciate how many different avenues the next stories in this series can take. But as much as I enjoyed this book, I do believe language was overly-colorful at times and should have been toned-down in parts. Don't misunderstand - there were long sections where colorful language was non-existent or at a minimum, but then there would be a few pages with several f-bombs or worse on it that were not able to be easily ignored.

Thank you Netgalley and Tor for this book and the opportunity to review it.
Profile Image for Mike.
669 reviews40 followers
July 24, 2018
A solid space opera yarn. Williams embroils readers in conflict right out of the gate with very little downtime for examining the headier elements of this setting. That said, Williams lays down some excellent character work here and lays a strong foundation for further explorations.
Profile Image for Powerschnute.
245 reviews23 followers
Shelved as 'abgebrochen-did-not-finish'
February 27, 2020
DNF @ p 101 (Kapitel 21)

Das hier wird eine Abbruchrezension ohne Bewertung. Den Verlag habe ich entsprechend informiert.

Der Klappentext klang vielversprechend. Eigentlich so richtig gut, um ehrlich zu sein. Normalerweise gönne ich mir ja immer erstmal eine Leseprobe, bevor ich mich für ein Buch entscheide. Das habe ich dieses Mal jedoch versäumt und bitter bereut. Denn bereits die Leseprobe oder der Blick ins Buch hätten mir gezeigt, dass „Sternenpuls“ und ich als Leserin nicht kompatibel sind.

Die Protagonistin bleibt eigentlich namenlos bis zur 2. Hälfte des Buches. Das habe ich zumindest anderen Rezensionen entnommen. Eigentlich steht der Name im Klappentext, aber genannt wurde er in den 20 Kapiteln, die ich gelesen habe, nicht.

Jane also, unsere Protagonistin hat die Aufgabe, begabte Kinder zu suchen auf den Welten, die vom Puls zerstört worden sind. Jane und ich wurden nicht warm miteinander. Als Sprachrohr des Autors sah sie sich genötigt, mir alles haarklein zu erklären. Jedes noch so kleinste Detail wurde erläutert, danach die logischen Schlussfolgerungen und am Ende wurde mir noch mitgeteilt, ob etwas nun verwunderlich sei oder nicht, schlimm oder nicht usw. Es blieb auf diesen ersten 100 Seiten keinerlei Raum für meine eigenen Schlussfolgerungen und Vorstellungen und Interpretationen, alles wurde haarklein vorgegeben. Selbst in Dialogen wurde das, was der Gesprächspartner sagte, erst analysiert, erläutert, mit Sarkasmus beworfen, bevor Jane endlich selbst etwas sagte.

Das war anstrengend und extrem nervend. Es half zudem nicht, dass der Schreibstil einfach grauenvoll war. Ein Schachtelsatz reihte sich an den nächsten. Neben einem Haufen Kommas, gab es Einschübe in Bindestrichen, und das nicht zu knapp. Spaßeshalber habe ich mal gezählt: es waren 20 Bindestricheinschübe allein in den ersten beiden Kapiteln, sprich auf 5 Seiten. Ergänzt wurde das ganze durch ständig kursiv geschriebene Worte, damit ich als Leserin auch ja die korrekte Betonung im Kopf habe. Und das nicht nur sporadisch sondern teilweise mehrfach in aufeinanderfolgenden Sätzen. Ich finde es ja eher befremdlich, wenn ein Autor damit den Eindruck vermittelt, seine Leser seien nicht in der Lage, sich selbst einen Reim auf alles zu machen.

Nach 101 Seiten habe ich also die Segel gestrichen, weil dieses Buch mir absolut keine Freude bereitete.

Hätte ich dieses Buch zu Ende gelesen, wäre diese Rezension ein absoluter Verriss geworden, denn ich glaube, ich hätte einfach nicht mehr an mir halten können. Es hat mich frustriert ohne Ende. Es war einfach nicht gut.
Profile Image for Nadine.
1,184 reviews223 followers
June 14, 2018
The Stars Now Unclaimed is marketed as a blend of Firefly and The Expanse by James S.A. Corey. I understand why they chose this comparison, however I would argue it’s for fans of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, but with more intense space battles.

The Stars Now Unclaimed follows a soldier, Jane, as she travels across the universe in search of gifted children. Jane is a member of an organization that believes these children are the only things standing between the Pulse once again sending the universe back to the dark ages. From the first few pages, Jane is communicated to be a fighter with a strict adherence to her duty. She’s resourceful, intelligent, and a straight up badass. Williams does a fantastic job in establishing Jane as a character with a mysterious past that heavily influences her actions.

As with Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, there are many different species introduced through the novel. One such species is a sentient robot named Preacher. From the minute she was introduced I loved her. She’s sassy, competent, and intriguing.

The universe Williams has created is vast. There are so many different worlds that differ and feature different species, cultures, and technology. The entire novel is predicated on the fact that the Pulse decimated the universe by rendering some planets unable to have functioning technology up until a certain time period. So, there are planets ranging from the dark ages to the extra solar age. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the different planets and what the Pulse was exactly.

The Stars Now Unclaimed also contains numerous battle sequences, ranging from in world, on ship, and in space. If you enjoyed The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, but wanted more space battles, then The Stars Now Unclaimed will please you endlessly. I enjoyed all the action sequences, however I found them all to be slightly too long, especially the ending battle.

Unfortunately, Williams does a lot of telling the reader rather than showing in terms of explaining the universe, the different species contained within, and the history. There are too many moments where it feels as if Jane stops what she’s doing and turns to the reader and explains everything in detail despite there being no reason for her to do this other than to inform the reader. Williams also repeats the same information over and over and over. The information he keeps repeating is important for the reader to remember, but after the first four times I think we get it.

Overall, The Stars Now Unclaimed is a fun space opera full of action from start to finish. So, if you’re looking for something similar to Becky Chambers’ novels with more action, look no further!

*** I was provided an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.
Profile Image for Viridian5.
906 reviews9 followers
October 11, 2018
This is definitely a Your Mileage May Vary review. This was not the book I thought I'd be reading, and it's not one I would've chosen if I had known. With that in mind....

I heard "smugglers, spies, a telekinetic girl, and a snarky spaceship." What I got was a book that's about 90% war killings. Fighting and killing. Lots and lots of killing. It became wearying to me.

Sure, the hundreds of thousands of deaths are an enemy worse than our protagonists, most of them cannon fodder brainwashed slaves for a fascist force that offers only two choices: join us in subjugating the universe as more of our brainwashed slaves or die. It's a force that conveniently can't be reasoned or negotiated with, the only option is to kill them all hard and fast. They're a literally faceless evil since they all wear suits that camouflage all individual features. Unlike the enemy, the protagonists don't see the strong always having to destroy the weak, they protect some of the weak, especially if they're useful. Our protagonists' side don't like to kill, except when they do, but they have to! The other, lesser, enemy to be slaughtered is a race that's devolved to an intelligent-for-an-animal predator level. They'll kill and eat you--and you need to gain the cannon they live near to save your millions of people--so kill them first.

I'm not a "pacifist at all costs" person. There are things and people worth fighting for, evils worth fighting, and you can't give in to bullies. But this is killing and killing and killing and killing. Person-to-person or starships fighting each other and massive cannons. Most war stories you get more stops for breath, personal time, other things. Not so much here for about 90% of the story.

The conveniently faceless evil to mow down isn't the only plot mechanic thing that stood out for me. The main protagonist picks up two totally new people from a pre-internal combustion engine world at the beginning of the book and has to info-dump a lot of things onto them.

It didn't help that I didn't care much about the characters.

Also, the pulse seems too much like magic to me. Even the protagonists agree that it defies physics. It spread throughout all of space, randomly busting down worlds to varying degrees of technological status for no rhyme or reason, but it does pass over the machine race as its creators had intended because. Because. Its radiation on individual planets can keep a society busted down to pre-internal combustion engine for over a hundred years somehow. It's part of the book's thesis that sapients will inevitably war against each other even if you bust them down to sticks and stones. Just accept it.
Profile Image for Viking Jam.
1,110 reviews16 followers
August 27, 2018
Publishing Date: August 2018

Publisher: Tor

ISBN: 9781250186119

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 2.7/5

Publisher’s Description:Jane Kamali is an agent for the Justified. Her mission: to recruit children with miraculous gifts in the hope that they might prevent the Pulse from once again sending countless worlds back to the dark ages. Hot on her trail is the Pax–a collection of fascist zealots who believe they are the rightful rulers of the galaxy and who remain untouched by the Pulse. Now Jane, a handful of comrades from her past, and a telekinetic girl called Esa must fight their way through a galaxy full of dangerous conflicts, remnants of ancient technology, and other hidden dangers.

Review: In the first movement which lasts about half of the novel there is this writing style that embraces Jane as matter of fact in all things. This singular focus of Jane’s is coupled with dry wit and to-the-point verbosity. Really refreshing writing as it opens up the characters in order for the reader to paint their own mental picture. As the writing takes on an unfettered air, the world(s) and their environments/aliens spring to life. Sadly this comes to a halt as Jane reunites with an old lover.

Second Movement: Here the writing deflects away from the crafting of solid characters to the more patterned exchange of dialogue we see in most romance novels. The shrugging of this, the sighing of that. Hunky man with flashing eyes and a yearning for his safe embrace.

The aliens that spatter the novel are not wholly built as “alien” in approach. All species tended to interact with humanistic emotive qualities. This expedites the story line but tends to undermine the authentic feeling we look for in hard SciFi. The only good aliens that were wholly alien were the Reint. Creepy to extremes but not real believable with regard to the de-evolutionary premise put forth.

There was quite a bit of filler about the Pax (Borg) that was a way too simple explanation about why the Pax do what they do. There is not a deep or complex evolution of an amalgamation of species vying for galactic control. Of such a scale you would think that something as destructively pervasive (and pivotal) would of had a long and complex tenure of development coupled with an extreme birth. It is just too easy to make a seemingly unthinking and hive like colony (Storm Troopers) the bad guys.

I could not wait to read this during the First Movement and wanted it to end by the Second Movement.

You can read all of my reviews, here.
Profile Image for Ron.
Author 1 book141 followers
October 19, 2021
That’s why I was here: trying to right my own wrongs. In a very small way, of course. I was only one woman, and it was a big, big universe. Also, I had a great many wrongs.
Near superhero space opera. Protagonist is a close as a human can get to being a super and has incredible luck to boot. Good, if superficial introspection. Linear story careens from one crisis to the next, often saved by chance.
“The local radiation will be divided between us, and it’ll go that much slower.”
Williams apparently learned science from Star Trek. Innumerable physics gaffs which know the reader out of the spell of the story. The supposed Pulse radiation impacts everything except what the protag needs.
“For a religious leader-person, you suck at comfort, you know that, Preacher?” “It has been mentioned, yes.”
Some humor. Would appeal to and be appropriate for young adult readers except for the language.
“… long since gone, eons ago, along with the atmosphere.” “When we finally broke out of the caverns and back into atmosphere …” Huh?
Decent ending, despite hooks to the rest of the series. Might have gotten another star had I not been reading real science fiction on my other device. But probably not.
Then again, very few of us are lucky enough to choose the day we die.
5,065 reviews57 followers
October 23, 2018
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

In the future, an incident caused all electrical technology to stop working. This enabled those that still had technology to take over. One of these factions, called The Pax is trying to take over the universe. The heroine, working for another faction, tries to stop them from taking over a low tech world, and rescues a young girl. They escape, find their way to a pirate system. The heroine reunites with a former lover, and things go from there.

Not bad space opera.
Profile Image for Jared Shurin.
Author 36 books91 followers
May 10, 2018
It is like if Destiny 2 and The Force Awakens had a love child?

Who was then taught how to play Resident Evil? By Firefly?!

Or, uh, all the serious parts of Simon Green's Deathstalker meet all the fun parts of Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice?

All of which, of course, does The Stars Now Unclaimed a disservice, as this book is a) very much its own thing and b) that thing is very, very, very good. This is the very definition of page-turning - an utterly bonkers SF adventure that free-falls from one explosion-packed set-piece to another. This is not the IKEA manual school of science fiction: the science is more explodey than meticulously detailed, and the world-building (which is truly elaborate) is a stage for joyously enthusiastic action.

That's not to say Unclaimed cheats on characters: it doesn't. A book this overtly silly (and it is silly - if you don't believe me, wait for the space raptors) needs something to ground it, lest it fly away with the next stiff breeze. And in the case of Unclaimed, that's surprisingly juicy characters: a bounty hunter, a snarky AI, a robot 'sidekick' (don't tell her I said that), and a grumpy teen. Plus many, many more - including an entire secret society of (inadvertently) apocalyptic warriors. They're all interesting, but Kamali, the protagonist, steals the show. She's fun, she's funny, and she's got a real - and complicated - motivation. There's plenty of playful banter, but Unclaimed is smart enough to have the slow and serious talks as well.

This may have planet-sized guns and space raptors, but it has a ton of heart as well. Fun, triumphant, silly and (secretly) soulful - this deserves to be the summer's blockbuster hit.
883 reviews39 followers
June 25, 2018
Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan - Tor/Forge for a digital galley of this novel.

This book is so good for adults and it would be for middle school students and older except that there is so much profanity in it. And I do mean it is jam packed. That's a shame.

Yep, five stars for a space opera. There aren't a lot of new concepts in this story except for the pulse which is the backlash from something that was supposed to be good but hasn't turned out that way. Rescuing children exhibiting exceptional abilities isn't an easy job but our hard-as-nails heroine has been doing it for a long time for the Justified and she's never failed yet to get them back to Sanctum. The action is completely non-stop so get yourself ready for battles that pit good versus evil with no ambiguity whatsoever. The characters are so fully developed they practically jump off the pages and, quite honestly, I wouldn't have minded having some personal private conversation with any of them. This is one well written book and I enjoyed the whole thing. No cliffhanger ending here, but the ending leads me to believe that there will be more of this series in the future. I can hardly wait!
Profile Image for Niki.
776 reviews123 followers
August 8, 2018
4 solid (unclaimed) stars for this one.

The reasons why the book didn't get a full 5 stars from me were:
1. Esa was criminally underused, I was so looking forward to getting awesome telekinesis scenes from her; I have a soft spot for telekinesis, it's my favourite super power and the one I wish I had the most (that, and telepathy)
2. The fact that the plot consisted of fight scene after fight scene grew tiring after a while, plus...
3. ...How every single one of Jane's Batman Gambits paid off nicely, she took risk after risk and basically no one got hurt by them (well, no one we knew, right? Cheers if you get the reference)
5. A personal pet peeve of mine is fight scenes of our protagonists VS something monstrous and mindless that comes in hordes, so they can just shoot and hit stuff to look cool, and there was a section of the book revolving around this.
6. Jane's big "name reveal" scene wasn't that big, we already knew her name from the blurb?

And what did I like? Everything else.

I don't usually go for sci-fi fantasy books, but I do pick one once in a while, and I was so very pleasantly surprised by this! I liked the characters, the humor, the worldbuilding, the writing. Preacher was my favourite, and I couldn't help but picture her like Danger from X-Men:
(I'm 85% sure that Drew Williams has read Joss Whedon's run of Astonishing X-Men; not only was Preacher similar to Danger, but the very last scene in the was simiar to the one in the ending of the "Unstoppable" arc. I'd be surprised if there is no connection)

Also, I adored reading about the details of the different species of the world.

I'm not gonna lie, I just flat out started the book because it has the word "telekinetic" on the blurb. Sadly, the book didn't deliver much on that front, but I'm pretty sure we'll be meeting other superpowered kids in the next book(s). There's a lot of stuff that the author can explore in the next installment (for example: Jane's mysterious mentor that is cryptically mentioned a few times throughout, or Jane's mysterious past in general, or the other children of the Justified, etc)

I'm very interested to see what happens next!

**Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book**
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