As the Khayyami fleet races towards Gan-De, General Cynwrig and her forces capture Asala and Niko. With no cards left to play, Asala and Soraya must make impossible choices. But Uzochi Ryouta still has tricks up her sleeve, and less care for the lives at stake…
We’re in the meat of the final act now as opposing forces home in on Gandesian space and the fragile lifeboat of Camp Ghala. It’s another excellent episode from SL Huang this week as the stakes rocket even higher (I’d almost say the team have saved the best for last, but with two weeks left to go, I don’t want to tempt fate).
Last week, I reflected on my surprise at how happy I was to see the complex, ruthless General Cynwrig again; this week, she embraces being the no-holds-barred villain she has always promised to be. She’s a military dictator, after all, with a single-minded commitment to her own planet and ice take the rest. Having worked out that salvation lies within her grasp, she naturally closes her fist.
Unfortunately, she has Asala, Niko and Soraya in her grip.
It’s dilemmas all the way down for Asala and Soraya this week, with the simmering mess of Asala’s loyalties put to the test. She is furious with Niko, and just as furious with herself for letting her guard down. But for better or for worse, the kid has wormed their way into her affections – and Asala isn’t quite angry enough to turn her back on them.
It’s just a warm-up.
With Cynwrig intent on seizing Uzochi’s technology and the Khayyami fleet steaming into Gandesian space (and let’s be clear, we don’t know they’re here to seize the cubes and devil take the rest, but given everyone’s survival rests on them, nobody is going to assume otherwise), Asala has one more decision to make: loyalty to Khayyam, loyalty to Hypatia or turning her back on everyone and leaving them to fight it out.
I got some serious Han Solo vibes from Asala this week, I won’t lie.
I think I was meant to be more engaged by Niko’s arc this week – wrestling with their treachery, trying to make amends – but frankly, they got completely upstaged. Their grand gesture looked hollow to me (less a sacrifice, more like running away), even if it hadn’t been obviously doomed to fail. Their lesser gesture of going to work alongside Soraya was better; this is a true shot at redemption. But I’m not convinced they really accept that Hafiz’s scheme is wrong; so the jury is out on how I feel about them.
In the end, Soraya was my guiding star this week. I commented back in Camp Ghala that I liked Soraya; by the end of Gravity she was well on her way to being my favourite character of the season. The no-nonsense administrator (and oh, there’s a job title that doesn’t get the respect it should) is as passionate as Niko, as competent as Asala, and as ruthless as – well, okay, maybe not quite as ruthless as Cynwrig. And that’s why I like her: Soraya has both principles and boundaries, and is utterly committed to the greater good for the most people. She calls Niko on their genocidal bullshit (yes, Niko, abandoning 3 or 4 whole planets to freeze to death does count as genocide), forces Asala to choose a side and when all hell breaks loose, she goes to work.
Soraya is tough as old boots and if her precious self doesn’t make it out of this season alive, I will be unsurprised yet raging. If anybody has earned a right to a future, it’s her. If anybody was going to get voted Most Likely To Stay Behind Because Reasons… it’s also her.
This isn’t to say she’s some pure-hearted hero. Nobody in The Vela is pure of heart. At this point, everyone is compromised, one way or another. They have turned their backs or betrayed or turned a blind eye. It’s been clear since we met her that Soraya will do whatever it takes in defence of the refugees she does her best to defend. It’s no surprise when – put on the spot – she chooses them.
But oh, my poor tender heart flinched in the best possible way. This is the sort of emotional carnage I was looking for.
I was sent an advance copy of The Vela in exchange for honest reviews ahead of release, but I’d already subscribed to it because oh my goodness this is so clearly my jam. Not sure where that leaves me with the new UK laws on declaring interests? No, me either.
The Vela is now available at https://www.serialbox.com/serials/the-vela