Michelle (Shell) Campion is the newly graduated captain, but even she will only be woken up on arrival; but when she does, it’s clear something is horribly wrong. Thirty-one passengers are missing; Ragtime’s AI has been compromised; and Shell’s suddenly facing any new captain’s worst nightmare.
A locked-room murder mystery is compelling as much for the how-dunnit as the who; when you transplant that situation into space, and a spaceship with both passengers and crew locked into a decade of sleep, it only makes that mystery even more compelling. Space is the ultimate in locked rooms, and for Captain Shell Campion, newly awakened and faced with her first mission gone drastically wrong, her life might just depend on unravelling that seemingly impossible puzzle. Bloodroot sends her assistance in the form of Fin Rasheed, disgraced former investigator, and Salvo, his synthetic partner, but it’s clear that no-one quite knows how to handle the first incident of this kind.
It’s that side of the story that really pushed this book firmly into fantastic, for me. A locked room and a possibly rogue AI aren’t, on their own, new; but the context of the mystery and the investigation absolutely were. Add to that, too, Tade Thompson’s excellent and almost mesmerizing writing, and you’ve got an absolutely fascinating book that’s so readable it’s easy to forget you’re reading and just get lost in the story. Like all the best horror, there’s a healthy dash of social commentary to break up the scares a bit and allow the reader to relax before ramping up the tension again, and characters much too easy to care about, making the stakes actually matter. I didn’t just want these people to get out alive, I wanted them safe and well at the end of it!
Far from the Light of Heaven is an excellent addition to Tade Thompson’s already impressive body of work – long may he continue to terrify us.
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