Clichés are usually clichés for a very good reason: they are true. And in the case of this book the one that applies is ‘Never judge a book by its cover’.
The cover, but Hi-Ex! guest Neil Roberts is quite wonderful and combined with the rest of the cover layout it gives the whole thing a nice old school sci-fi novel feel to it.
Now, I never read the blurb on the back of a book (at least not before I read it), so it is probably my own fault that I was surprised when the book opened in contemporary London.
From there, the story flips between there and some (at first) unnamed other more ‘sci-fi’ time and/or location.
I don’t as a rule read a lot of sci-fi books. I usually limit my reading to the more obvious authors like Iain M Banks or, as is the case here, ones that have been sent for review. I also have to confess that I had never heard of Gareth Powell before, even though he has written two book previous to this one, and on the strength of this one, I’ll be searching them out.
Powell writes in short chapters of only a few pages. It is an old trick but it is also a good one, as it keeps the reader hanging on past their bedtime for just one more chapter
This is an impressive book. The Earthbound scenes start with a brilliant high concept idea, while the other strand of story exhibits a breadth of imagination up there with the best of them. Powell has the same knack the aforementioned Banks has of taking an idea and expanding it into something mind boggling, as he does here with his bubble habitats.
But it’s not all grand ideas, there is also a very good plot running through here. I did wonder at one point just how he was going to join up the disparate plot strands, but Powell does so in a clever, and (it has to be said) in retrospect, obvious way. I say ‘obvious’ because I really should have figured it out!
Anyway, the plot: it is great stuff. Powell manages to pull some original ideas out of his hat, while riffing on some well worn sci-fi trope.
It all ends well too. And by ‘well’ I don’t necessarily mean it has a happy ending (or not), I mean that he deftly ties up plot points and leaves just enough dangling there that the reader will hopefully want more. And in this he succeeds.
All in all, this book is well worth seeking out – you’ll find details on the Solaris website.
I started this review with a cliché, so I’ll end with one too: Gareth L Powell is one to watch.