Good day to you all fellow readers. I hope you all had a fab Halloween! I’m absolutely thrilled to present you my review for this fantastic blog tour for Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson!
The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having traveled light-years from home to bring thousands of sleeping souls to safety among the stars.
Some of the sleepers, however, will never wake – and a profound and sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel as its skeleton crew make decisions that will have repercussions for the entire system – from the scheming politicians of Lagos station to the colony of Nightshade and the poisoned planet of Bloodroot, poised for a civil war.
Tade Thompson is an author that never fails to impress and delight me. Last year I undertook reading the Wormwood trilogy and I’m still thinking of the specific parts of it that blew my mind. An uncanny mix of mystery and political thriller mixed with samplings of new weird and biotech, Far From the Light of Heaven is equally impressive and a new undertaking for Thompson.
Set aboard the Ragtime, a colony ship piloted by an AI, we meet Michelle Campion (or Shell). Second mate to that same AI. Meeting Shell, we are introduced to this new world where humanity now lives among the stars, where AI pilot craft and never fail and of course, a mission Campion is charged with fulfilling with simple objectives. But of course, the AI does fail and Campion wakes up ten years after the launch with noone but her own wit to survive.
I loved reading from Campion’s perspective. She is brutal yet efficient and carries all those interesting layers that Thompson gives his characters. She may be set on saving and preserving the lives of over 900 passengers, but she has never been afraid in her breaking relationships with others to get this far. She may be striving to bring this mission to a safe end but her motivations, though her own, are shaped by familial pressure and expectation. She is the best Captain the Ragtime could need.
Something that always sets me up for a good read for any scifi novel, particularly space opera, is the way the author builds the world outside the ship for the reader in varying levels of detail and strive to keep both the characters or reader from reaching it’s many resources to end their conflict. As the story progresses, Shell is joined by others sent to assess the Ragtime. We have Rasheed Fin and Salvo, a disgraced enforcer and artificial person respectively, sent to investigate what’s happened aboard. There’s Larry Biz and his half human, half Lamber (a different species unique to this part of space) Joké heading off from the Lagos station from familial ties to Shell. And of course, the AI Ragtime itself, half functional and not responsive to Shell. This of course leading to the perfect closed circle mystery aboard a space craft with limited supplies for life support and more complications for the residents on board.
When I say I had no clue what to expect, I compliment Thompson directly. I was so wrapped up in this expertly plotted part of space, mostly by the mysterious nature of the Lamber species and the politics between Earth, Lagos and the Bloodroot colony that I genuinely didn’t know what might be coming. These are some of my favourite mysteries to not necessarily solve but more sit back and allow the story to take me to what solves it. There was also this really well done history of how the Lagos station came to be and how humanity even expanded out there, and it really covered some of the uglier side of how these things go as well;
‘Lagos was established by mainly Black Afrofuturists. Space is the Place. With considerable effort, all their fiscal and human resources and a rich, funky cultural history mixed with African myth and mythmaking, they willed the space station into being. More than a few white supremacists liked the idea of a large proportion of Black people leaving Earth. They were disappointed when Lagos flourished.’pg 219
I really like smaller additions like that, they always make me far more invested in the story. It was similar in how I enjoyed the inclusion of Ireland and how it fared in the events leading up to the story in Rosewater. It’s smaller aspects like that that keep me invested, as well as the smaller call backs made to other scifi books, by either using tropes or direct references to them. There’s just something very enjoyable about the devil in the details and this book really has a lot of that.
I would highly recommend this and Tade Thompson’s Wormwood trilogy. This is a brutal, tight mystery with excellent characters and some huge potential for other explorations in this world. It’s also a perfectly accessible book for those new to scifi so definitely worth checking out for that. I want to thank Orbit Books for sending me a copy of this book for review and to Tracy for having me on the Compulsive Readers blog tour. Far From the Light of Heaven is out now.
Thanks for checking in everyone! Happy reading!