Book Reviews

Defying Gravity

This isn't a book with lots of violence, war or death in it. There's enough of that in real life, and if you're into that kind of thing, then there's plenty of other books out there for you. This is a story about the stuff that we don't have enough of in real life. Love, tolerance, bravery and leadership. And its a story about humanity's first attempt to live in space, and how two young women save us all from our own stupidity. Oh, it also features zero gravity, inter-racial, lesbian lovemaking. (Because there isn't enough of that in real life either)

By virtue of their size, authors can only do so much with a novella. There’s only so much story they can fit in, there’s only so much they can explore the characters, there are only so many twists and turns they can add, there’s only so much worldbuilding they can explore, and there are only so many themes they can tell resonant stories with. Quite often, novellas miss the mark because they summarise the story’s events, rushing through to get to the end. That Defying Gravity by Davi Mai packs so much in is a crowning achievement.

At an estimated 116 pages on your eReader of choice (or a leisurely three hours and two minutes if you listen to the audiobook), Defying Gravity is not just filled with an entertaining story with plenty of twists and turns, great worldbuilding and heartwarming themes, it does so at a leisurely pace that draws the reader into the author’s world, or in this case, off-world. As it tells the story of two women, starship captain, Lana Sumeti and daughter of the President of the United Nations of Earth, Amari Omehia, it presents a meditative tone, slowly unveiling the world and its characters. Predominantly set in space, the tone captures the stark beauty amongst the stars, and a feeling of loneliness that comes with navigating its vastness alone.

Rather than a rumination on loneliness, Defying Gravity casts an inviting tone, making it easy to pick up and digest. Complementing its meditative tone is a wonderful sense of humour. The humour comes through in the story’s plot, through its characters, and through the author’s prose. In writing the book, Mai has deftly combined these elements. At points, the reader feels the emptiness of space, while at others, the reader will laugh out loud at the one-liners and various asides the author throws their way. And at other points throughout it, the reader will have both reactions simultaneously.

Defying Gravity’s plot starts simply enough, introducing readers to Lana and Amari. As it unveils who they are as characters, their paths soon cross, and over time, they develop feelings for one another. As its blurb says, “this isn’t a book with lots of violence, war or death,” before going on to add that “it also features zero gravity, inter-racial, lesbian lovemaking.” The characters navigate a journey, with a plot that throws some surprises at the reader, and the story being told entertains. However, of all Defying Gravity’s elements, this plot is the least developed one. It takes a backseat to its characters and atmosphere, to its humour and its themes. It’s engaging, but isn’t where Mai’s novella truly shines.

One aspect of Defying Gravity that does truly shine, however, is in its characters, particularly Amari and Lana. Throughout the book, the reader gains an intimate understanding of who these women are and what makes them tick. Both characters are beautifully drawn, and following their exploits through the book is a joy. Not only do they form the narrative backbone, they also form the novella’s heart. The other characters populating Defying Gravity are less defined, but this isn’t their story. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, authors can only do so much with novellas, and that is also true in this instance. While I generally like all characters in books to have a strong through line, Mai made the correct decision in not focusing on these side characters, who serve to populate the world. While they mightn’t have a great level of depth to them, they are each highly enjoyable to read, offering some of the book’s greatest moments. The wit the author uses to describe characters who briefly appear is wonderful, and on more than one occasion, reminded me of Terry Pratchett.

Throughout the book, the author’s prose is easy to follow as it creates a comfortable atmosphere for the reader. It’s understated in its approach, showing the reader what they need to know without providing massive amounts of detail. It conjures the imagery of the story while letting the reader’s imagination do the rest of the work. At times, various errors filter through into the text, usually punctuation issues and excess words that could have been cut to streamline it. While these inhibit the reading somewhat, they don’t majorly detract from the narrative and the feelings it elicits.

Defying Gravity elicits feelings throughout its pages, from its tone, to its characters, to its prose, most of them pleasant. Its themes also elicit these emotions, as it presents them in a way that will resonate with the reader. While the blurb offers “zero gravity, inter-racial, lesbian lovemaking”—indeed an element of the book, albeit not a major one—it is a love story between these two characters, presented in a way that evokes love itself more than romance. In addition to love, the blurb also promises “tolerance, bravery and leadership,” in a story “about humanity’s first attempt to live in space.” Set almost two hundred years from now, the universe it offers isn’t a utopia, and is subject to many of the prejudices we live with today. But it’s also a future where tolerance, bravery and leadership shine brightly, and one where humanity’s forays into space offer an even brighter future.

Through its meditative tone and pace, its story, its characters and its humour, Defying Gravity is a book full of resonant themes about hope and love. One where an entertaining plot gives way to those themes. While it features various errors in its writing, it remains a story that is as funny as it is resonant.

Favourite Passage

The tiny hairs on the back of Lana’s neck rose, and she felt goose bumps on her arms at the mention of a P-pod. She’d spent six weeks in one of those as a child. The last thing she saw before it put her to sleep, had been her parent’s anxious faces. The first thing she saw when she woke up, were the faces of the rescue team who would deliver the news that her parents had died. P-pods occupied a dark place in Lana’s memory. They signified the end of her childhood and the beginning of a premature and maladjusted adulthood.

Defying Gravity, Chapter 5: “Sleeping Beauty”

Defying Gravity was purchased for the purpose of an honest review.

Defying Gravity is available in eBook from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon), and Audible, exclusive to Amazon.

You can follow Davi Mai online, via:

Note: I do not post scores on reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

Interested in purchasing Defying Gravity?

Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.

Defying Gravity

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