[As a warning: This book does mention off-screen emotional and physical abuse by a domestic partner.]
Stars Uncharted is a fast-paced space opera centered around three characters: Nika, Josune, and Roystan.
Nika is one of two (3rd person limited) POVs we read from. She is one of the most well-known body modders out there. She can alter a person to the point of physically being unrecognizable — down to the DNA. She has a machine that allows the minds of two people to switch bodies for 24 hours. Unfortunately for her, she is forced to switch bodies with an infamous hit man who, after the 24 hours, has tried to kill Nika. After getting to safety, Nika realizes that she must go into hiding if she wants to live. She soon meets Bertram Snow, another body modder, who ends up in trouble of his own. Together, they must flee for their lives.
Josune is the other POV we read from. She is a crew member of The Hassim, a ship which is infamous for its memory records of lost worlds containing immense treasures. But they are still searching for one lost world. Her captain tells her to infiltrate a rival ship, The Road, believed to hold the secret to the whereabouts of this lost world. However, after only a short time undercover, Josune and the rest of the crew on The Road discover The Hassim — wrecked and damaged beyond repair. Everyone has died, and now there are these strange Company people attacking them.
Finally, Roystan is the captain of The Road. He and Josune are badly injured by the Company operatives. He ends up taking in Nika and Bertram as members of his crew to help treat his and Josune’s injuries. Now, the three of them are on a mission to find the lost world while avoiding being killed by the Company.
As said before, this is a fast-paced book but also mainly character-driven, which I found very interesting and compelling. The science itself isn’t explained in much detail; things just work. What I appreciated were the small world-building elements. For example, we learn that there are trends that come and go in body modding. We also learn that it’s completely normal for people to change physical genders if they want. Unfortunately, things such as violence and abuse still exist. We learn about Nika’s struggles with her abusive ex.
Nika’s POV was the more compelling. While Josune’s sections weren’t bad by any means, I just didn’t feel that engaged with them. And while I think a fast-paced character-driven novel is incredibly interesting, sometimes the pacing was a bit too quick, especially on Josune’s sections. I think one reason I didn’t enjoy her POV as much was because, compared to Nika, I felt like we didn’t get to know Josune as a person all that well. In terms of the other characters, everyone was memorable, which is very good. Again, they aren’t as fleshed out as Nika and even Josune, but they are still fleshed out enough not to blend into the background. And I think that’s the point for them.
Overall, this is a book centers around deception and adventures in space. If you want a book that’ll keep you awake at night, dreaming of an incredible future, Stars Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall is for you.