What is A Spaceship Repair Girl Supposedly Named Rachel?
One minute, Rachel is taking a break from babysitting. The next, she’s escaping the Earth on a pedal-powered interplanetary bus. It could happen to anybody.
It could. Generally it doesn’t, but it could. Because what Rachel soon learns is that Earth is infected with Math, which is why we look at our solar system and see freezing balls of ice, gas, and rock whirling lifelessly through a hostile void. Everyone else sees air pirates sailing the Seven Skies of Saturn, the endless exciting fight scenes of Mars, the sullen ghosts of Pluto, and much more.
“More” including the Lighthouse of Ceres, the waypoint for all travelers of the solar system. That’s where Rachel ends up, and where she finds out her hobbies of sketching and storytelling make her a genius at repairing Math-free spaceships. She loves it, and no one makes her reveal she’s from the quarantined, much-feared planet Earth.
Instead they make up their own ideas of who she is and where she’s from. Very dangerous ideas….
A SPACESHIP REPAIR GIRL SUPPOSEDLY NAMED RACHEL is a new release by one of my favorite Young Adult authors named Richard Roberts (Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m A Supervillain, You Can Be a Cyborg When You’re Older). I don’t normally read YA novels, but he’s always managed to find the careful balance of writing adolescents and young teenagers in a way that feels sweet without being saccharine.
The premise for this novel is Rachel finds herself next to an impossible starship made from what appears to be a school bus and powered by a peddling con man named Peter Pumpernickel. From there, she ends up journey to a lighthouse on the asteroid of Ceres as well as joining up with an eccentric cast of characters that are terrified of the planet Earth. You see, the people of Earth have a condition called mathematics that stands in for logic. Logic that is the most feared thing in the universe. Probably because the universe outside Earth absolutely does not run on it.
As a mathophile that feels that numbers are unfairly maligned in education when they give us such wonderful things as engineering as well as mad science, I am less than pleased by the depiction of it as a communicable disease within the world of A Spaceship Repair Girl, but this is a small complaint in an otherwise wacky Neil Gaiman’s Stardust-esque or Alice in Wonderland-style romp. You can’t really hate a novel that has a kobold in a blonde Dolly Patron wig and a bunny girl running her giant mile-tall space station that’s on the lookout for planet-eating worms.
Between all of Richard Robert’s work, I may put this as a third as I am biased to superheroes and cyberpunk over high fantasy space opera. This comes from the Spelljammer school of “just go with it” every time our heroine encounters something that absolutely does not make any sort of sense like the trick to surviving in space being a fishbowl and clothesline. Still, there’s absolutely nothing but pure joy from page to page and if you’re sick of grimdark or excessively cynical writing then maybe you want to experience some Wizard of Oz style antics without the deconstruction.
For those who are unfamiliar with Roberts’ work, Rachel is a pretty typical example of his heroines. They’re exceptionally clever and creative young women that ere on the mischievous side. Having accidentally and then deliberately lied her way onto a spaceship leaving behind her home, Rachel is determined to enjoy as much of her new life as possible while feeling only the tiniest bit of guilt for abandoning her family. The fact her ability to imagine how things should LOOK versus how they should WORK also gives her incredible abilities as a repairer of spaceships that run on nonsense.
If I had any recommendations about A Spaceship Repair Girl Supposedly Named Rachel, other than to definitely leave your knowledge of physics (AKA “Math by another name!) at the door, then it would be to pick up the audiobook version as opposed to the text one. The narration is just top notch and the acting really expands on the story. Rachel L. Jacobs is a great narrator and really brings all the characters to life but especially Rachel.