Tuesday 26 October 2021

Book Review: Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson

Pros: interesting characters, great world-building, unique


AIs fly ships, and AIs have never failed in flight.

When first mate Michelle ‘Shell’ Campion is woken after the last bridge-jump to the Bloodroot colony, 10 years into her mission, she finds the starship Ragtime’s AI reduced to its basic operating system and 31 colonists missing from their sleeping pods. This is not the way the now acting captain foresaw her first mission going.

Bloodroot sends an investigator in answer to Shell’s distress call to find out what’s happening on the quarantined ship, but murder is just the start of the mysteries he uncovers there.

The world-building is great. While most of the action takes place on Ragtime, I loved Lagos station and learning about the Lambers. I also appreciated that the human characters were considerate towards the AI, even asking what pronouns they prefer.

The plot begins with the mystery of how the colonists died, but that’s quickly overshadowed by the weirdest series of events as things on Ragtime quickly spiral out of control. You’re not going to figure out ‘who dunnit’, or foresee any of the other twists that come completely out of left field, but the ending explains why everything happened, which I greatly appreciated.

The pacing can be on the slow side at times, reflecting the actualities of space travel and communication. Having said that, the characters never have enough time to solve a problem before the next one comes up, making the story feel claustrophobic, rushed, and tense.

The characters are intriguing and unusual. Shell is calm and collected even under the worst pressure. Fin hates space though he’s excited to be practicing his trade again after screwing up his last assignment. Joké is… unique and kind of fun.

This is a different kind of science fiction novel, something the author mentions in an afterword at the end of the book. So if you want something outside the norm give this a try.

Friday 15 October 2021

Shout-Out: Winders by Ryan O'Nan

In this stunning debut by actor and screenwriter Ryan O'Nan (Skins, Marvel's Legion, Queen of the South), time itself can be wound back like a clock. The power of Winding can fix mistakes and prevent disasters. Or, in the wrong hands, it can be used as a weapon against the world...

Juniper Trask is a prodigy, raised under the Council's strict Code, which allows Winders to exist in secret among average humans. After the shocking murder of her mentor, she is chosen to take his seat on the Council. But as Juniper settles into her new role, cracks of dissension are forming around her, and she uncovers the dark truth behind their power. Juniper has just become a pawn in a game no one knows is being played, and as she begins to question the Code for the first time, her life spirals into a world of danger.

Charlie Ryan always knew he was different, ever since he saved his mother from a horrible car wreck that no one but him remembers. After meeting a mysterious man who claims he has the same ability, Charlie leaves home to chase him for answers. But the world Charlie's stepped into is more dangerous than he could have imagined. Charlie's powers are special, and there are those who would kill to get their hands on him.

Now, Juniper and Charlie need each other if they are going to survive the future--no matter which future that may be...

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Book Review: No Way by S. J. Morden

Note: This is book 2 of the series, therefore the review contains spoilers for book 1 (you can read my review of One Way here.)

Pros: gets you quickly up to speed with regards to the events of book 1, interesting characters, some ethical dilemmas, hard SF, variety of conflicts


After building the base on Mars and surviving XOs attempted assassinations, Frank cuts at deal with the company to impersonate Lance Brack and help the NASA astronauts arriving in a few months with their mission. But XO has others secrets on Mars, and they intend to keep their malfeasance unknown on Earth.

No Way picks up immediately after the end of One Way. If it’s been a while since you read the first book, the author does an excellent job of reminding you of the ending and the more important elements within the first few chapters of book two.

Frank is a sympathetic protagonist despite his past. He faces a lot of ethical dilemmas before the NASA crew arrive, and a few more afterwards. The crew themselves face some tough decisions later in the book.

I appreciated that the conflict was a mix of man vs nature, man vs himself, and man vs man. The book is well paced, with sections where things are going well followed by tense chapters where things go very wrong.

Descriptions of life on Mars circle around the constant danger, the monotonous scenery, and the utter excitement of being on an alien planet. While I personally can’t vouch for the scientific accuracy of everything that happens, the author is a rocket scientist with degrees in geology and planetary geophysics.

There is some thematic overlap with The Martian, though the tone here is more serious. If you like survival stories, or Mars, this is a fantastic book.

Tuesday 5 October 2021

Books Received in September 2021

 Many thanks to TOR Books for the following title.

Servant Mage by Kate Elliott - I have heard amazing things about Kate Elliott's work but have somehow never read her. So I'm really looking forward to this book, which releases in January, 2022.

They choose their laws to secure their power.

Fellion is a Lamplighter, able to provide illumination through magic. A group of rebel Monarchists free her from indentured servitude and take her on a journey to rescue trapped compatriots from an underground complex of mines.

Along the way they get caught up in a conspiracy to kill the latest royal child and wipe out the Monarchist movement for good.

But Fellion has more than just her Lamplighting skills up her sleeve…