Diana Roark didn’t begin life as the richest person in human history.
But as luck would have it, she’s exploring Earth’s deepest ocean when aliens, called The 27, orbit and make First Contact. When The 27 leave, as suddenly as they came, every human alive has been Augmented—except for Diana. After Augmentation, humanity no longer ages, and all material comforts are dispensed free from alien Obelisks. With all fundamental needs suddenly free, the world economy craters. Entire industries collapse. Only Diana, excluded from Augmentation’s endless youth, fearing the end she sees coming, continues to invest. And in using her immense wealth to stabilize the planet the only way she knows, she becomes sole owner of much of the Earth.
Then the 27 reappear, after thirty years, intent on collecting what they’re owed, and Diana is the only person alive who still wields money brutally enough to give humanity a fighting chance. She’s met her match, however, in the endlessly expanding Known Economy, a galactic marketplace which absorbs every sentient species it encounters, and which recognizes just a single, simple rule: you either buy, or get sold to the highest bidder.
Hincker opens with a serious, familiar alien encounter story that quickly blooms into the improbable and hilarious with the appearance of “Robert,” a foul-mouthed alien resembling a 12-foot-tall purple stalk of broccoli. He tells Diana he is her Account Executive on behalf of the Interstellar Trade Commission of the Known Economy, and a cryptocurrency that has attained sentience. When Diana learns the truth of the number 27 and the aliens’ plan for Earth, she puts her economic powers to work against the aliens, as well as the nefarious Terrance Landerson, Director of the World Bank, who raves: “Capitalism will save us!...Strive and achieve, or fail and die.”
There’s much to love about this profitable predicament. Hincker twists the cliché of Earth threatened by aliens with a cynical commentary on the preoccupation over money, loans, interest, and financial obligations. The rich are always getting richer somewhere, and capitalism is literally universal. This book is a treat for lovers of humorous science fiction that gets readers thinking. Diana is white but the supporting cast is diverse; anyway, Robert informs us that 99% of intelligent life is plant-based, not like us disgusting animals.
Takeaway: This uproarious economic-focused SF romp wins with its amusing predicament and steadfast female protagonist.
Great for fans of: Catherynne M. Valente, Terry Pratchett.
Design and typography: N/A
Marketing copy: A
A Debt to the Stars recieves a Starred Review from Kirkus, who call the book, "...a unique, frantic, fun, and thought-provoking SF tale that takes surprising twists and turns, reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy."