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Stealing Light review

Ancient artefacts and über-fish

Author: Gary Gibson

Publisher: Tor

490 pages • £16.99

ISBN: 978-0-23070-040-6

Rating:

He’s already produced two intriguing novels, but Gary Gibson’s third slice of hard SF sees him upping the ante and taking on space opera’s big boys. Packed with massive concepts and dark psychological twists, Stealing Light is a gripping interplanetary saga close in tone to both Alistair Reynolds and Peter F Hamilton, but with enough edge and imagination to give it its own unique flavour.

The setting is the 25th century, where faster-than-light travel is fully controlled by the Shoal, a manipulative race of fish-like aliens. Behind their strict rules, however, the Shoal are terrified of their ultimate secret being revealed – a possibility which becomes likelier when a gang of militant human colonists called the Freehold discover an ancient starship on a distant planet. Possessing a faster-than-light drive that’s older than Shoal technology, the mysterious ship is just waiting to be salvaged and exploited. However, the Freehold don’t understand the scale of what they’re messing with, or the dark secrets lurking in the past of their “machine-head” pilot, Dakota Merrick…

The complex plot is soon mixing dark political intrigues with planetbusting mayhem, as well as giving us a distinctive, hard-edged SF heroine who’s got a weirdly “intimate” relationship with her spacecraft. Balancing flashbacks, sharp characterisation and big-scale concepts, Gibson has produced a seriously entertaining sci-fi page-turner not afraid to throw in shocking moments of violence, or to take the plot in unexpected directions. With a wide open climax, it seems like Gibson’s journey into this dark, unpredictable future has only just begun – and if this is anything to go by, it’s going to be a ride worth taking.

Saxon Bullock

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