A Matter of Oaths

Reviewed by:
On February 11, 2018
Last modified:February 19, 2018


A Matter of Oaths by Helen S. WrightI don’t often read books that was published before 2000 – much less books from the 1980’s – not because I necessarily dislike reading older works, though they are often so problematic, but because I am busy reading the new books that come out. I did however pick up “A Matter of Oaths” after a recommendation of it from a trusted source. And boy was I glad that I did!

Opening sentence:

The web is based on a simple concept: a direct link between mind and machine.

Title: A Matter of Oaths
Author: Helen S. Wright
Genre: Space Opera, Science Fiction

I really enjoyed A Matter of Oath! It has so many things I love: Space opera, political intrigue, a no-nonsense romantic subplot, space empires and it isn’t overloaded with too many fight scenes.

I really enjoyed all of the characters. They felt like people! Brilliant people with huge personalities – as space opera ought have. I really am a sucker for competent people. One of the two protagonists is a female spaceship commander in her over 60 – and she has bad hip. The main protagonist is black man with curly hair and patchy skin and everyone clearly thinks that he is beautiful!

Everyone is pansexual – nobody really care what gender their partners are. The main romantic pair is two men and they love each other deeply. The sex scenes are steamy but non-explicit.

It’s the kind of book that don’t hold your hand with the world building but just expect you to keep up. I am a sucker for this kind of space opera!

In many older sci-fi books, the technical details, feel really outdated, but the techno-babble never does. I really would not have been surprised if A Matter of Oaths had been published in 2018. It is however from 1988, and I have never heard about it before. I have never seen it on a best of space opera list or seen Helen S. Wright mentioned when we discuss the genre – which is a real shame because this is a wonderful book. It was thoughtful, entertaining and fast paced. There are elements of cyberpunk – the ship is piloted in a kind of cyberspace – their version of warp navigation – and the scenes in cyberspace are engaging and doesn’t feel dated either. 

In many ways it reminded me both of “A Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet” (the small tight-knit crew) and “Ancillary Justice” (the big weird empire, that you don’t quite understand with the mega powerful emperor).

While the book was originally published in 1988, it was just re-released by  Bloomsbury Caravel with the new amazing cover, that doesn’t whitewash the protagonist. The introduction by Becky Chambers is also a really nice bonus.

The Stats

Published: 1988
Read: December 30. 2017 – 2. January 2018
Format: ebook
The author: female, United Kingdom
The protagonist: Ralf, PoC, male, spaceship pilot, pansexual

The covers

In 1988 both the UK and the US cover whitewashed the main protagonist Ralf, not so with the new cover.


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