Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson
Read before: No
Ownership: Review copy provided by the publisher and preordered too.
Spoilers: No, but will talk about the plot vaguely.
Disclaimer: Receiving a review copy from the publisher does not affect my opinion of the book. If you think I review it highly it is due to me knowing my taste well and therefore not requesting books I won’t enjoy. And I am not obligated to review the book if I do not like it, so you may not see bad reviews due to me preferring not to hype down a particular book. I only do reviews of books I disagreed with if I think it is worth bringing a topic or warning to light.
Far From the Light of Heaven is a heavy hitter in the space opera, thriller and murder mystery categories. And it has stuck to me, even months after having read it initially. I want everyone to read it because it is brilliant and like a good dish, it has layers upon layers of flavour that you slowly discover as you turn the pages and keep reading.
One of my favourite things in the book was the way Tade made the existence in space so real. It isn’t a perfect idea like Star Wars and Star Trek where somehow the only times there are technical issues it is for the plot. In this case, you can see the training, the pressure, the many things that may go wrong, and the inconvenience of doing long journeys (the characters don’t get a magic pass at how to go into deep sleep and wake up the same age as they went to sleep as if nothing had happened, for example). The best way to summarise is to say that he asked the question of “this is where we are now with space travel, how would it be to deal with a bunch of stuff going wrong, with a murder mystery, with AI and just have to deal with it?” and honestly, the answer to it is fascinating.
Ragtime as the AI and spaceship is an interesting and nuanced exploration of what AI can be and is at the same time, like a present and future all in one. And that is all I will say about the AI in the book even though I honestly could write an essay on it because it was also another favourite part (yes, apparently this is a review full of favourite parts, ok? the five foxes should have given you a hint).
Finally, I will say that the cast is relatively small even though there is a wider cast of secondary characters that mostly help place the main cast, but even they seem to have a life of their own even if we are not privy to it through the main story. The book also touches on what identity may be and what it is to be alien, or a foreigner, and the way you may be perceived by different groups of people. And finally, it touches on religious beliefs, not in a religious way but more as an exploration of what it is to believe or not and what you believe in.
This is probably Tade’s best work to date and my engineering heart is satisfied.
If you haven’t preordered or ordered it yet, it is coming out on the 29th of October so make sure you grab a copy and maybe read it for a wonderfully spooky and atmospheric horror/thriller feel.