The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having traveled light-years to bring one thousand sleeping souls to a new home among the stars. But when first mate Michelle Campion rouses, she discovers some of the sleepers will never wake.
Answering Campion’s distress call, investigator Rasheed Fin is tasked with finding out who is responsible for these deaths. Soon a sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel, one that will have repercussions for the entire system—from the scheming politicians of Lagos station, to the colony planet Bloodroot, to other far-flung systems, and indeed to Earth itself.
First, I’d like to thank Orbit and Little, Brown Books for the ARC. It has not affected my review but it was indeed very kind of them.
Far from the Light of Heaven is an action-packed murder mystery-cum-science fiction space voyage. It reminded me so much of the movie Sunshine, with a dab of Leviathan Wakes; it’s nail-biting, intelligent and heavens damned moreish.
This book was simply … different. And amazing for it. Different because when you read the premise of ship travelling from Earth to the Lagos System, you’re trained (as an SFF reader) to think ‘ah, Space Opera,’ which was the expectation I had going in. But no, as Thompson himself posits, this is definitely not Space Opera, it’s Locked Room Murder in Space – the most tightly locked room there is. Because, how can someone commit a murder aboard a humongous spaceship like the Ragtime and not immediately be caught by its on-board Artificial General Intelligence? And the plot certainly does make you guess, lead you down the wrong path, trick you into thinking you’ve worked it out when you haven’t; also, it manages to throw completely explainable, weird tentacle creatures, a wolf, an owl, printed weaponry, rogue robots, and aliens into the mix – all the things us SF readers love but in a wildly, wildly original way. I’d never read Tade’s work before, but now I’m going to read them ALL. There’s some magical originality that goes on here.
On the topic of writing style, I love how natural the tone of the novel and the speech of the characters are. It’s clipped where it can be, naturally flawed and incomplete in most parts. It’s writing that knows how people communicate and adds no fluff to the situation.
Lamber are so awesome and original. Again we see depth of creativity and imagination … an imagination that says aliens wouldn’t have to be hominid, human-like, or of a concept we’d understand at all? Tade shows us that the answer is ‘no, they don’t have to be,’ when he gives us the Lambers. I won’t go into too much detail, but the amount of world-building around this species in such a short book focused on Locked Room murder, is frankly amazing.
Fin and Shell have a lot of depth, as do the other less major characters like Salvo, Joke, and Lawrence. Well, they are main characters as well but not like Fin and Shell … and I think the characters here play into what’s mentioned in the afterword. Each one’s a very clever working of the stressors in space Tade considers: physical, mental, interpersonal, and habitability. I mean, the first three are certainly explored in just Shell – the mental stressor especially. The weight she feels on her shoulders, the failure and this carries through the novel. So much so that I’m so moved by the ending that I’m writing this review immediately after. Shell goes through layers of the stressors, then all at once. And then a different combination in turn. As do all the characters. But it’s fascinating how you could split the plot down into those four base stressors … and I’m not saying much and I’m babbling here but I don’t want to spoil the novel, I only want to prove to you how clever Thompson is at what he does and make you read this book.
Overall, this is probably the best book set in space (not Space Opera) you’ll read this year. I guarantee it’ll stick with you for a while, at least.