Tag Archives: epic science fiction

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna duology by Ian McDonald

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I thoroughly enjoyed McDonald’s depiction of this aggressively capitalist society in the first book, Luna: New Moon set in a near future where an exhausted Earth is relying on the Moon to keep the lights on. So it was a no-brainer that I was immediately going to request this sequel when it appeared on Netgalley.

Corta Helio, one of the five family corporations that rule the Moon, has fallen. Its riches are divided up among its many enemies, its survivors scattered. Eighteen months have passed. The remaining Helio children, Lucasinho and Luna, are under the protection of the powerful Asamoahs, while Robson, still reeling from witnessing his parent’s violent deaths, is now a ward – virtually a hostage – of Mackenzie Metals. And the last appointed heir, Lucas, has vanished from the surface of the moon. Only Lady Sun, dowager of Taiyang, suspects that Lucas Corta is not dead, and – more to the point – that he is still a major player in the game. In an unstable lunar environment, the shifting loyalties and political machinations of each family reach the zenith of their most fertile plots as outright war between the families erupts.

What the above blurb may not make clear is that Luna: New Moon left the story on a major cliffhanger – nothing at all was resolved. So if you haven’t read it, then my firm advice would be to go away and track down the first book before tucking into this one, because there is no ‘Story So Far’ and with the large cast of characters, multiple viewpoints and odd names, I think anyone coming cold to this world is going to flounder.

The gamechanger that flung everything up in the air at the end of the first book continues to have consequences. Major consequences. And as ever, when turmoil and catastrophe occurs, it is often surviving children who suffer more than anyone else. McDonald is very good at showing rather than telling and in this fast-moving, action-packed epic, he starkly portrays the ravages of war and violence. I could see this being made into a cracking film.

And there would be nothing wrong if he left it at that, but what elevates this book to something more than a slice of escapist enjoyment, is that he continues to show what happens after the initial violence dies down. Because the people involved don’t forgive and forget. That drive and aggression that drove them to forge industrial empires on the Moon morphs into something a lot darker and vengeful when their own families are attacked and their homes and businesses gutted.

Inevitably, in such a wide-ranging story with a scattered cast of characters, this is more of an action-driven story. However there are a handful of protagonists who have lodged in my head – Marina, a ‘Jo Moonbeam’ who came up from Earth in the first book to make her fortune gets pulled right into the heart of the conflict and then has to make an agonising decision. Does she stay on the Moon for the rest of her life, or return to Earth? There is a window in which she can return – but after then, her body will have adapted to the lighter gravity such that it will be impossible without massive and expensive medical intervention. Two children particularly tugged at my heart – Robson, who ends up living on the streets and Darius, another boy caught in the middle of the ruling family feuds, is manipulated into perpetuating their ongoing war…

Apparently McDonald has described this epic political power struggle set in space as the ‘Game of Domes. I’ve found myself often thinking about the first book and the brilliant, fragile infrastructure he wrought – and this book is every bit as thought-provoking and disturbing. Highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of Wolf Moon from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Collapsing Empire – Book 1 of The Interdependency series by John Scalzi

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I mostly thoroughly enjoy Scalzi’s writing and was delighted when I saw this offering on Netgalley. Sadly though, it wasn’t much fun to read – and that was nothing to do with the author. The Kindle arc looked as though it had been mugged by a binary monster as every page was spattered with zeroes and ones amongst the prose – and if that wasn’t bad enough, the majority of the polysyllabic words were split up into their syll ab les. Fortunately, I very much liked the story, otherwise I wouldn’t have persevered – but I did end up with a thumping headache after a couple of reading sessions and I would plead with publishers to consider their hapless reviewers before letting arcs go out in that state.

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars. Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

I loved the idea that dark matter includes The Flow which allows humanity to escape from Earth and colonise space. The Interdependency is a nifty idea that has managed to – more or less – keep the empire from fracturing and allows an elite to make a very, very good living, with the rest more or less managing. In other words, capitalism is alive and kicking…

And then there is a gamechanger and a new ruler all at the same time. Said gamechanger is going to shake everything up in such an extreme manner, the information isn’t even accepted without a lot of hard evidence – which means there isn’t a lot of time left to do anything about it…

I loved the premise – it was every bit as interesting as I had hoped. I particularly enjoyed the fact that not only did we get a ringside seat when the new emperox finds herself landed with a job she didn’t want, we also got to see exactly what motivates the main antagonist as they manoeuvre for more power and agency. The plotting and double-crossing going on results in plenty of action – some of it nicely unexpected, which is why I’m keeping my comments reasonably general.

Scalzi’s easy style keeps this book barrelling along at a fair pace, so that while the pages didn’t fly by quite at the speed I would have liked – it was taking too much effort to decode the abysmal formatting in my Netgalley arc – nevertheless the story unfolded with pleasing ease. The finale brought the main story arc to a satisfactory conclusion, though there are sufficient dangling plotpoints such that I will be looking out for the sequel in due course. After a number of great standalone reads, such as Lock In, I’m delighted Scalzi has now embarked upon another major series.

While I obtained the arc of The Collapsing Empire from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.

8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 14th March, 2016

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna series by Ian McDonald
64% Hypatia is a hope, a haven. They may reach it on the dregs of power. There may be something at Hypatia that can deal with a score of killing bots. There may be something between their current position and Hypatia that will save them.
Or their batteries may fail, despite the careful husbanding. Then the bots pounce and annihilate them. Every ten minutes Wagner runs up the radar mast to peep over the horizon. They are always there. They are always closer. No hope of losing them: the two rovers leave indelible fresh tracks, aimed like arrows at Hypatia.

BLURB: Corta Helio, one of the five family corporations that rule the Moon, has fallen. Its riches are divided up among its many enemies, its survivors scattered. Eighteen months have passed. The remaining Helio children, Lucasinho and Luna, are under the protection of the powerful Asamoahs, while Robson, still reeling from witnessing his parent’s violent deaths, is now a ward – virtually a hostage – of Mackenzie Metals. And the last appointed heir, Lucas, has vanished from the surface of the moon. Only Lady Sun, dowager of Taiyang, suspects that Lucas Corta is not dead, and – more to the point – that he is still a major player in the game. After all, Lucas always was a schemer, and even in death, he would go to any lengths to take back everything and build a new Corta Helio, more powerful than before. But Corta Helio needs allies, and to find them, the fleeing son undertakes an audacious, impossible journey – to Earth. In an unstable lunar environment, the shifting loyalties and political machinations of each family reach the zenith of their most fertile plots as outright war between the families erupts.

Last year I read the first book in this series, Luna: New Moon, and thoroughly enjoyed McDonald’s rich evocation of an individualistic society where there is no state intervention and everyone has to pay for air, food and water from the moment they step off the shuttle. Now it’s all gone pear-shaped, it’s riveting stuff…

Friday Faceoff – Diamonds are a girl’s best friend…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is diamons, so I’ve chosen Diamond Mask – Book 2 of the Galactic Milieu Trilogy by Julian May.

This is the offering produced by Pan Books in 1994 is for me, the best. I love this cover – beautiful and otherworldly. It doesn’t hurt that this is the cover of the book we own which absolutely blew me away when I read it and I still don’t think I’ve read anything else quite like it.

diamondmask1

This cover produced by Del Rey Books in January 1995 could be every bit as strong as the above offering – the artwork is detailed and beautiful with that stunning diamond in the centre of the cover. And then they go and ruin it by sticking that horrible block of red across the top and a lot of blather over some of the remaining landscape *sigh*…

diamondmask2

This more modern cover, produced by Tor in 2013 is reasonably effective. I’m always a sucker for a cool-looking spacescape. I find it fascinating that they figure – correctly, I suspect – that May’s name is the one which will influence the buying public, rather than the book title. The only thing that jars for me is the mask that looks as if it’s a complete afterthought.

diamondmask3

This Italian cover, produced in 1996 by Nord, might be another strong piece of artwork – but your guess is as good as mine, given they smothered a chunk of it with a vile bilge-brown frame, then plastered that peculiar metallic wing affair across the top of the main detail with a rather shocked-looking face peering out. Probably the original artwork designer horrified at the horlicks they’ve made of his cover.

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This effort, produced by Knopf in March 1994, is plain bizarre. Nothing on the cover to denote this is science fiction, at all. The monochrome image of a rather androgynous young man is ruined by slapping a bright yellow slatted band across his eyes – apparently to denote the diamond mask of the title. Could it be more jarringly ugly? Oh yes – they then excel themselves by sealing his lips with a bright red box that informs the reading public that this is A Novel. I hope no one got paid for producing this crime-against-design, because if they did it’s daylight robbery.

diamondmask5

I think that given the quality of the writing and the importance of this amazing series to the genre, some of these covers are a disgrace. Perhaps you feel I’ve been a tad harsh – what do you think?

Friday Faceoff – Slipped the surly bonds of earth…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is spacecraft – yay! I’ve chosen the third book,  Abaddon’s Gate, in the space opera series The Expanse by James S.A. Corey

 

abaddonsgateThis is the cover produced by Orbit in June 2013. I love the colour, the action and the vibrancy of this cover. It clearly has eye appeal as do all The Expanse covers and plenty of drama. However I’m not a fan of all the chatter, which I think makes it look rather untidy and takes away from the effectiveness of the strong design.

 

abaddonsgate1This German cover produced by Heyne in February 2014 has a completely different colour palatte and is far simpler in design. I do like the relatively uncluttered look which gives me the opportunity to fall in love with the spacescape.

 

abaddonsgate2This Serbian edition, produced in June 2015, has really grown on me. Once again, it is relatively free of all the chit-chat silting up the UK offering and the image is arresting and effect – but I also particularly like the title font which sings out of the darker background. I also think said gate is beautifully depicted here.

 

abaddonsgate3The cover design on this Russian edition, produced in August 2014, is nicely complex and an intriguing angle, so that I stop every time to see if I can figure out exactly where all those worrying pieces floating about have come from. Unfortunately it is ruined by those clunky thick bands enclosing the fonts, giving the cover an old fashioned look and obscuring far too much of the lovely artwork.

 

abaddonsgate4This Italian edition, published in August 2016, has used the same colours as the original but changed the angle of the ship. Sadly, the other detail copied across from the UK editions are all the words cluttering up the cover.

Which is your favourite? Mine is the Serbian edition, but I’d love to know if this one will divide everyone as thoroughly as last week’s offering.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Obelisk Gate Book 2 of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

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I’ve recently reviewed the first book in the series, The Fifth Season, here and was delighted to hear that it has garnered the 2016 Hugo Award for best novel. While I haven’t read the rest, it blew me away and is certainly my favourite read of the year so far. So will The Obelisk Gate be able to live up to the very high bar Jemisin set with The Fifth Season?

theobeliskgateTHIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.
The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever. It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy. It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last. The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

The first recommendation I’d make is DON’T pick up this one if you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading The Fifth Season, what with the continuation of the unusual pov – in second person ‘you’ for one of the main protagonists, the slightly fractured nature of the narrative time and the density and richness of this odd, dystopian world, I think it would be an almighty struggle to work out what was happening. The Obelisk Gate pretty much takes up the story where The Fifth Season finishes and Jemisin doesn’t hold up the action to explain the story so far… So if it was a while ago you read the first book, then I’d have a quick skim just to remind yourself of exactly what was going on, just so you can fully appreciate this extraordinary story.

I was slightly concerned that the unfolding story might slide into a more predictable pattern, or the intensity of The Fifth Season might slump. Nope. I was immediately whisked back into this desperate situation, bonding with these spiky, difficult characters. They are people I’d rather never encounter in my daily life – all carrying emotional baggage and scrabbling to survive, they are lethal. However, I found them all engrossing, such that several times I read with a lump in my throat and on one occasion had to blink back the tears – not something that happens all that often to me, these days.

Any grizzles? Nassun is only ten years old and during the first part of the book, I never forgot that fact, but as she is steadily pulled further into the middle of the action, I don’t think she continues to realistically act like a ten-year-old. Even an amazingly talented, traumatised child surrounded by people she knows want to harm her… That said, it isn’t a dealbreaker and if I didn’t spend a chunk of my normal life around that age-group, I probably wouldn’t have even registered it as an issue.

Other than that, the story of the Earth, whose constant geological instability has spawned new species adapted to this state of affairs, continues to unwind as humanity struggles to avoid extinction. Marvellous, momentous stuff demonstrating a wonderful imagination that had me buzzing with excitement long after I finished the book. I’m now desperate to read the third one…
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Fifth Season – Book 1 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

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I generally have the memory of a goldfish regarding books I’ve read, though it has dramatically improved since I started reviewing/logging every book on completion. But there are a handful I recall with pinsharp detail years later. One of those is the first time I encountered Jemisin’s writing. I was sitting in Victoria Station, having just bought the book at Waterstones and waiting for the train home. Himself was seated next to me, also engrossed in a book, so Life was pretty much perfect. Especially as the opening passage of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms hit me with the force of a sledgehammer – see my review here.

thefifthseasonSo I’m still scratching my head as to why it took me quite so long to get around to reading The Fifth Season which has been patiently waiting on my Kindle. Thanks to Sara Letourneau’s nagging, I bumped it up my TBR queue and I’m very glad I did…

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries. Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

I’m conscious this sounds like yet another gritted struggle for survival in a land where civilisation has suddenly broken – an abiding staple of science fiction that has reached new heights of popularity, recently – but as with most really successful books, Jemisin has scooped up the basic concept and turned it into something uniquely her own. For starters, there’s the viewpoint. As a Creative Writing tutor, I spend a great deal of time telling new writers that addressing the reader in a magnificently detached authorial voice might have worked for Charles Dickens, but modern tastes dictate that it’s now a no-no. Unless you’re Jemisin, of course… She then launches her main protagonist at us in second person viewpoint, so we are experiencing Essun’s trauma as ‘you’. Frankly, my jaw was grazing the ground at this point and I did wonder if I’d manage to put this character voice on the backburner sufficiently to become engrossed enough that it simply didn’t matter, or better still – added to my enjoyment of the story.

And, along with almost everyone I’ve met, I can report that by the time I was a quarter of the way into the story, it simply didn’t matter. I was so caught up in the story and the unfolding situation, I would have persevered if Jemisin had taken it into her head to omit every sixth word. Furthermore, there is a solidly good technical reason why Essun’s story is relayed in second person pov which I’m not going to elaborate further, as it would also be a thumping great big Spoiler. Suffice to say, it isn’t just some idle whim but matters to the narrative structure of the book.

Along with Essun, there are a raft of vivid characters I really cared about – my favourite being the prickly, tormented Alabaster. The narrative arc of this story isn’t straightforward. There are regular flashbacks, that initially appear to be random interruptions to the ongoing storyline, as well as those omniscient intervals. It all comes together at the end in the shocking twist that still has me humming with pleasure at the symmetry of it all. And desperate to get my hands on The Obelisk Gate – which definitely won’t be hanging around for months on my TBR pile.
10/10

Review of Existence by David Brin

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I loved the Uplift novels and when I saw this offering on the shelves with the gorgeous 3D cover – it was a no-brainer that I’d scoop it up…

existenceGerald Livingston is an orbital garbage collector. For a hundred years, people have been abandoning things in space, and someone has to clean it up. But there’s something spinning a little bit higher than he expects, something that isn’t on the decades’ old orbital maps. An hour after he grabs it and brings it in, rumours fill Earth’s infomesh about an “alien artefact.” Thrown into the maelstrom of worldwide shared experience, the Artefact is a game-changer. A message in a bottle; an alien capsule that wants to communicate. The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity.

That’s the blurb. And it manages to make the book sound a great deal more cosily manageable than it actually is… Be warned – this is a gnarly read, particularly if your taste runs to fast-paced, character-led tales. For starters, it is a large book with a smallish font and 550 pages. But if you hang in there and grit your teeth over the info-dumps, this book is a rewarding, thought-provoking read in the best tradition of hard science fiction that raises questions of morality and philosophy, alongside the slice of futuristic adventure.

I haven’t come across a book more aptly named. For most of the novel, Brin addresses the notion of existence – and using his sprawling, epic plot explores various options open to Humanity trying to negotiate through the perplexing puzzles posed by the crystal artefact. I can guarantee you won’t find a First Contact novel that more thoroughly covers the ramifications for both us and any possible aliens still out there. In fact, right the way through this very long novel, this crystal gismo continues to provide one revelation after another. The majority of them are eminently feasible, so that I found myself at times muttering aloud at the sheer coolness of the concept.

For starters, the near-future world in which the crystal artefact pitches up is instantly recognisable. Our social media and constant interaction has been stretched so that the majority are plugged into virtual overlays and artificial intelligence is busy assisting us in every aspect of living – which is both an advantage and disadvantage… Brin has also provided a colourful range of characters whose varying reactions to the cataclysmic discovery is not only informative, but completely convincing. While I won’t pretend that depicting snappy, layered characters in a couple pages is one of Brin’s strengths, by the end of the book I really cared about a small handful of the eccentric band of protagonists that wove their way through this doorstopper.

Any niggles? The multiple viewpoints only have a couple of pages each, before we flit off to another character, which gave the book an old fashioned feel and meant that as a reader there was no getting comfortable or relaxed. While some of the backstory inserts were spot on in length, there were several times I came to an abrupt stop in a character’s viewpoint with some exasperation. While this is an amazing book that demonstrates an impressive breadth of imagination, intelligent deduction and ambition, the later depictions of the autistic character frankly had me wincing. There were also sections that I felt could have been chopped without losing all that much – and would have speeded up the overall pace to the book’s advantage.

But these observations are niggles. Set against what Brin set out to achieve and how triumphantly successful he has been, they are minor annoyances and shouldn’t dissuade anyone from picking up the book. And if you’ve ever seriously wondered where humanity is going and why we haven’t yet encountered anyone else in the galaxy, then go looking for Existence. It doesn’t provide mere food for thought – it provides a seven-course banquet…
9/10

Review of The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

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I picked up this book with delight from the library shelves, after hearing very good things about Lord’s writing. It didn’t hurt that the cover was speckled with stars, either…

thegalaxygameFor years, Rafi Delarus saw his family suffer under his father’s unethical – and illegal – use of psionic power. Now the government of Cygnus Beta has Rafi under close watch, in case he has a similar talent. Rafi hates their crude attempts to analyse his brain – but is also riddled with fear. What if they are right – and he is his father’s son after all? And how can he experiment with his powers to find out?

That’s as much of the blurb as I’m willing to share, as it gets far too chatty for my liking in the ensuing paragraphs. Although, I won’t deny I could have badly done with some kind of help at the outset – what the cover didn’t reveal, is that The Galaxy Game is the sequel to The Best of All Possible Worlds. And given that this is epic science fiction, spanning a hatful of worlds and inter-galactic politics, I was initially adrift in a sea of characters and allusions to places that meant nothing to me.

I’m aware that the fashion for short overviews entitled The story so far… is well and truly over – but I have recently felt strong nostalgia for that consideration for the hapless reader, like myself, who picks up a book mid-series. Especially in this case, when I wasn’t aware it was part of a series… So my firm advice is if you, too, initially find it heavy going, grit your teeth and hang in there, because if your taste runs to character-led, coming-of-age stories set in interesting, original worlds, then this one is great – once it all starts making sense.

Ravi’s third person narration is interposed by his more sophisticated, worldly-wise friend Ntenman’s first person accounts which swing along with much more punch – probably because he is, outwardly at least, far more confident. And that is the glory of Lord’s writing. Nothing and no one is as it first appears. She has managed to present a society where financial obligation is only one, more minor preoccupation – what people really need to pay attention to, is their social obligations. Everyone builds up networks, and in a society where psionic power is the norm, it is this tradeoff in obligation and patronage that Rafi has to negotiate.

This would have been an impressive feat if the book was a doorstopper affair of 500+ pages – but it isn’t. The hardcover version is 340 pages long. Neither is Lord’s prose particularly choppy or noticeably high octane. She devotes the necessary description required to clearly depict her beautiful, original worlds in plenty of detail, along with the food and clothing requirements, to the extent that I wouldn’t be surprised if someone hasn’t already snapped up the film rights. This book is cinematically sharp and would make a marvellous film, particularly for a director who likes a world laden with subtext.

By the end, I was aware that I had read a remarkable book by an extremely talented writer. And if you enjoy reading about people who have adapted in interesting ways once we reach the stars, then don’t track down The Galaxy Game – head first for The Best of All Possible Worlds, which is what I aim to do.
9/10

Review of The Bridge by Janine Ellen Young

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This book was nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award – and after reading it, I can see why…

When the Ring aliens first thought to contact other worlds, they gave no consideration to the fact that other species might be constructed differently from them. Deep-space dwellers, more like large and complex bundles of genetic information than physical entities, they sent their probes off into the night hoping to build a bridge between their dark and beautiful society and others. Most probes vanished into the infinite ways of space, but one found Earth. And one was all it took to utterly disrupt life as we know it for all time…

And that’s all I’m going to give you of the very chatty blurb – because after this point we are into serious Spoiler territory. No point inthebridge ranting about it in the hope that the publisher might change their ways, though – Earthlight no longer exists.

Suffice to say that after the probe lands, Humanity is left completely altered by the experience and a portion of the survivors emerge with an unswerving drive to respond to the aliens’ invitation and build a star vessel capable of reaching them. While others come through the upheaval with a very different agenda, and want nothing more than to try and reclaim normality as best they can.

Young charts the lives of her main characters and shows how they are shaped by what befalls them. Of necessity, this book is written in multiple viewpoint and given the span of years and distance she is covering, there are big leaps in the narrative time where the characters have moved on. Despite my strong preference for in-depth characters in first person viewpoint (I), this book gripped me to the end. Young is a highly talented writer with an amazing ability to provide a big emotional wallop to her characters in a relatively small scene. Jude’s helpless, desperate love for Valerie, his best friend’s wife, is visceral – which matters as this drives a lot of his motivation through the rest of the story. I also found Varouna absolutely riveting in the early stages of the book – and would have liked a few more scenes in her viewpoint later in the book near the climax, although I do accept that Young had to make some hard choices in order to keep this book from developing into a sprawling, unwieldy mess, which it never does.

In fact, given the epic subject and the scale on which she is operating, the structure is very tightly focused on her viewpoint characters. Through them, we get some fascinating glimpses of how human society has changed after the probe landed, and I have read some readers grumbling that they wanted her to enlarge this aspect of the book. But this book isn’t focused on what happens on Earth, it is all about the building of the Bridge.

So, does Young succeed in adequately covering her subject and give us a sufficiently complex and plausible experience in this very ambitious novel? In my opinion, yes she does. This is why science fiction really is my favourite genre – at its best, it poses mind-expanding ‘what if’ scenarios and then goes on to explore them, weaving contemporary concerns and issues into an entertaining storyline. Young’s ‘what if’ is how our world could unite sufficiently to provide the huge resources necessary to build a deep-space vessel. If you enjoy an intelligently written epic science fiction story peopled with some memorable characters, keep a look out for The Bridge – it’s a cracking read.
9/10