James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > Post

Ain’t a Saint

Ocean’s Godori

By Elaine U. Cho 

31 May, 2024

Doing the WFC's Homework


Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

Elaine U. Cho’s 2024 Ocean’s Godori is a thus-far stand-alone near-future science fiction novel.

Ocean Yoon saved Teophilus Teo” Anand, lesser son of the vast Anand Tech commercial empire, from a violent death. Her employers should have rewarded her; instead, they assigned her to their worst ships. But the highly skilled and determined Ocean has made the best of her circumstances and her career is reviving. Teo? He’s doing OK, living his rich kid life.

Fate brings Ocean and Teo back together.

By the 23rd century, the Solar System is close to being a comfortable place to live. Powerful terraforming technology has transformed previously hostile planets, moons, and lesser bodies into shirt-sleeve environments. Warp gates shorten distances between destinations. Space travel is dominated by the Korean Alliance. Of course the usual human ills persist. Such as crime. Such as space pirates.

Ocean’s current post is as XO/Pilot of the fourth-rate ship Ohneul. Ohneul is crewed by the usual assortment of colorful characters and commanded by the money-focused Dae. Ohneul plies its trade travelling from world to world.

Teo is travelling on the Shadowfax when it is attacked. All of the crew save for Teo are killed. Teo manages to get away in an escape pod, which takes him to the Ohneul and Ocean.

News updates report that Teo and his pod reached Earth. What??? Something is wrong. Teo attempts to contact his brother Declan; it’s too late. Teo finds out that his family has been eliminated, save for a fake Declan. Teo has been accused of destroying his family.

There’s obviously some deep-seated plot in motion, backed by powerful people. Teo cannot hope to argue his innocence in court. It’s at this point that dashing space raider Phoenix appears. He informs the crew of Ohneul that someone has put a bounty on the ship and its crew. Phoenix could have destroyed the ship and taken the bounty, but does not. He helps the crew of the Ohneul escape by faking their deaths.

If Ocean, Teo, Phoenix and their friends are ever to be safe, they must work out what’s going on, who’s behind the plot, and how to put a stop to the scheme. If they don’t, their heavily armed enemies may find and kill them.


The book’s cover features a blurb touting this book as an adventure in the same vein as Firefly and Becky Chambers’ Wayfarer series. Were I a blurb writer, the SF property I would have cited in a blurb for Ocean’s Godori would be Cowboy Bebop. Wayfarer is popular (which is probably why that series was picked), Firefly was no doubt chosen specifically to annoy me… but the setting of this novel is more like the anime than the unsuccessful television show.

Reunified Korea is a significant power on Earth1 and the dominant one in space. How does a medium population (low compared to China, India, or even the US) nation like Korea dominate space? Judging from this book, very effectively2.

I would like to be able to say that Ocean’s Godori is Firefly done right or even that it does Cowboy Bebop better. Alas, the novel has some significant issues 

Pacing in the first half is glacial. Also, the antagonists are unrealistically willing to explain their machinations to their victims (over the phone, no less), which is not at all prudent for persons engaged in a covert scheme.

Various worldbuilding details kept yanking me out of the story. Even granting ubiquitous warp gates3, this is a weirdly small solar system. I was also distracted by phrases such as 

A colorful belt trails out into the air, floating in space.” 

There is no air in space.

The novel could have benefited from more extensive editing… except that’s not a feature of the current publishing landscape. Too bad, because the flaws are not intrinsic to the work. Many of the book’s issues could have been fixed. It’s not the publisher who suffers worst when books are made available before they are ready.

Less a complaint and more a rambling observation: as melodramatically violent as they are, the antagonists have valid reasons beyond greed or nihilism to target the Anands. Ocean and company end up opposing the antagonists mainly because Ocean and Teo are friends. Teo isn’t actively terrible, as is his father, but he is a beneficiary of his family’s schemes. Not the first work I’ve recently encountered in which the antagonists have a solid complaint that is undermined by their methods4.

The characters and their interactions are OK. Probably better people will focus on those and not on the worldbuilding issues that obsessed and distracted me.

Ocean’s Godori is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Chapters-Indigo), and here (Words Worth Books).

1: Because I read this in e‑arc, it is easy to scan the MS for specific words. Words I did not find: US, USA, America, Europe, India, Africa, and China (Chinese written characters are mentioned once). Japan is referenced three times and Russia once. Canada isn’t mentioned at all but why would it be?

2: Small nations such as Portugal, Belgium, and England have carved out large empires in the past. Korea’s 23rd century empire appears a lot more humane than Portugal, Belgium, or England’s. Low bar, I admit. On par with Tau Zero’s Sweden, which as you all remember was the nation chosen by the other nations of the world to rule Earth.

3: Warp gates seem to be instant. At least, that’s my explanation for why trans-system comms have no lag time.

Some readers… me mostly… might wonder why a civilization with an instant point-to-point portal network is limited to one system. Well, interstellar distances are huge. It’s possible that the warp gates themselves have inhibited the development of the rockets needed to traverse interstellar space in a reasonable time. Why develop high performance rockets if you can just take a short cut through a gate? But without high performance rockets, the galaxy is out of reach.

(Have fun working out how to get a warp gate to another star using only low delta-vee rockets. I know I did.)

4: Methods such as brutally murdering innocent bystanders.