Review: “Right to Know,” Edward Willett

Pros: A great character arc
Cons: A conspicuous lack of agency for a while
Rating: 4 out of 5

In Edward Willett’s Right to Know, Art is a newscaster on a colony ship. Well, to be honest, he’s really more of a propaganda officer; his stories highlighting ways in which the ship is starting to break down keep getting censored. A revolutionary asks him to play a mysterious file on the news, but warns him not to try to preview it. He doesn’t listen, and finds out the ship is nearly at a habitable planet–but because it’s already inhabited, and the captain has orders not to initiate contact with aliens, the ship will move on. Previewing the file gets him caught, which leads to him getting kidnapped out of captivity. He’s taken to the inhabited planet, where he finds out that humans developed faster-than-light travel after the colony ship left, and settled down on this planet, called Peregrine. Unfortunately, it turns out that the colony ship also has planet-busting missiles on it. How can Art possibly keep the planet from shooting down the colony ship, and the colony ship from blowing up the planet?

One of the high points in the story is, oddly, also one of the low points. Art’s character arc is all about him learning to act in his life, to do things rather than simply exist. It’s a very good and believable character arc. But in the first half of the book he has so little agency–he gets kidnapped multiple times, and takes almost no direct actions–it gets a bit frustrating to read. Other than that one quasi-problem, Art is a great main character. He grows without changing unrealistically (in my opinion). There are good reasons why he changes.

The mild romance isn’t handled very well. There’s little chemistry between the characters, and it isn’t built up much at all. It’s something of a distraction, honestly. Some of the other characters also lack the depth that was put into Art.

The worldbuilding is interesting. The colony ship basically has a caste system, where the Crew are seen as better than the Passengers and have near-total control over them. Peregrine, the planet, has its own tightly-controlled government, plus a super-zealous cult. Both planets have a few rebels who are willing to give Art a hand as he comes to the realization that he has to do something.

This book didn’t wow me, but it was a solidly good read.

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