Far From the Light of Heaven – Tade Thompson

I saw the cover for Far From the Light of Heaven and I knew I needed to read this book, even though I’m not always a massive fan of science fiction. I started Rosewater by the same authors quite a while back, and it’s still on my pile of partially read books – I’m not sure why, but my mood-reader self didn’t quite click with it at the time. But I can say with confidence that even if Tade Thompson’s earlier work wasn’t for you, pick up Far From the Light of Heaven – it is a great story, addictive and thought-provoking (and I know quite a few people who feel similarly about this one!).

Many thanks to Nazia Khatun at Orbit for sending me an ARC of this excellent space opera. All opinions are my own as usual.

RELEASE DATE: 28/10/2021

STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶

SUMMARY: 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. (from Orbit)

OPINIONS: Hi, you need this book. And coming from someone who doesn’t read too much space opera that means something. (though funnily enough, the next book I’m going to review is ALSO space opera) I really really enjoyed Far From the Light of Heaven. It is compulsively readable, and has that great quality of being accessible and commercial while still having deeper themes and making you think without hitting the reader over the head with its politics – a balance that Orbit’s editors have been managing to hit really well with their recent releases. I started reading this one a little while ago, and got distracted with life, and when I picked it up to just read a few chapters, it sucked me in and I blitzed through the last two-thirds of the book – that’s how compelling it is.

This is space opera, and a locked-room murder mystery, and a criticism of capitalism (there’s a UBER-rich guy who reads as a cross between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk – obviously he ends up dead and is a dumbass) and so basically combines everything needed for a damn good story. Ultimately, the ending feels a bit rushed – I thought there was still a bit of story coming and was blindsided by the book being over (partially because the ARC came with some back matter that filled the last 20-30 pages) – but that feels like a minor quibble. And oh, Shell and Fin are such wonderful characters. I loved their interactions, their banter, and how they grow as the story unfolds. The way Ragtime’s AI is woven into the narrative is delightful too.

I thought that the way the bigger issues about space travel, capitalism and worker’s rights and conditions were woven into this story about deaths on a spaceship was really well done, in a way that did not feel like the author was forcing his readers to deal with them, while subtly making it clear that these were important factors driving both the story and our world. This really is one of the best space operas I have read, and one that I will be thinking about for a long time to come.

All in all, highly recommended. If you like your books fast-paced, smart and compelling, even if you’re not the biggest fan of science fiction or space opera usually. Add Far From the Light of Heaven to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

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