This book could not be more timely than now! A powerful read about survival and morality under threat of extinction. Many thanks to Sarah Mather at Titan Books for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 21/09/2021
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Environmental disasters and AI armies have caused the human population of Earth to flee. They lie scattered across space stations and colonies, overcrowded and suffering. The Earth is cut off by the Interdiction Zone: a network of satellites that prevents any escape from the planet. The incredible cost of maintaining it has crippled humanity, who struggle under the totalitarian yoke of the Sol Commonwealth government. Many have been driven to the edge of society, taking any work offered, criminal and otherwise, in order to survive. The crew of the Arcus are just such people.
Through the Interdiction Zone, a world of priceless artefacts awaits, provided anyone is crazy enough to make the run. With fuel running low and cred accounts even lower, the Arcus’ survival might depend on taking the job. Yet on arrival on Earth, the crew discovers that what remains of their world is not as they have been told, and the truth may bring the entire Sol Commonwealth tumbling down… (From Titan Books)
OPINIONS: Reading Stolen Earth against a backdrop of newsreels on resource poverty, environmental degradation, and the ultra-rich’s space tourism, makes it seem less like science fiction and more like science possibility. ‘What if this is our future?’ I wondered halfway through the book. Well, the protagonists are not lying down to take it. The stark, claustrophobic spaces of spacer life, conveyed through minimalistic but punchy descriptions, bring to the fore the interior lives of the characters. In diametric opposite to something like a sprawling high fantasy novel, the world of Stolen Earth is pared down; there is no lush background to recede into, only the crew of the Arcus in their daring bid to reach Earth and return. And it works perfectly for a novel that deals with resource scarcity and the dilemma of ensuring your own survival or doing the right thing.
I was a bit thrown by encountering yet another Soviet-coded bruiser with a penchant for violence raised by a criminal cartel where children are forced to labour in the mines. It’s not this character, Leo Federov, in particular, but just how often that trope occurs, that has given me pause. But ultimately, his heritage and his occasional Russian expletives can be ignored and have no significant bearing on the story.
Finally, I loved Nicholas’ treatment of incomplete solutions: outcomes are negotiated, characters misunderstand or mistrust each other, there are plenty of invested parties, each pulling in their own direction, but… that’s what makes the world of Stolen Earth so compelling and so timely.