Gollancz, out now
Roboteer Will Kuno-Monet is assigned to the crew of the Ariel for a very special mission during the hostilities between the genetically-modified Galateans and the native Earthers – one that will place him in an unenviable position…
The past few weeks have seen some great science fiction books released, and Alex Lamb’s debut novel joins that list. It’s an intelligently written novel that extrapolates from current research in various fields, including artificial intelligence, robotics, genetic modification and the nature of space to produce a story that has the pace of a space opera with a hard science core – and throws in some Cronenbergian body horror almost as an aside.
There’s a lot of underlying discussion of the nature of humanity and the various avenues that it can follow – the Earthers are led by a Prophet and despise the sorts of modifications that the Galateans have had to carry out simply to survive. When a third party is brought in – one who simply regards humanity as one species, rather than the two discrete groups into which it has split – Will has to combat both sides’ hatred of the other if he is to save both.
Lamb’s worldbuilding is excellent: we see multiple levels of society in both tranches of humanity through assorted characters that are deftly drawn. The crew of the Ariel gets a lot of attention (although I’d have perhaps liked a bit more time devoted to Amy) as does one of the key Earther military leaders – but it’s Will who is, understandably, the most vividly and realistically depicted despite the extraordinary circumstances that he encounters. To say much more would spoil the many twists and turns of the tale, but Lamb leaves you wanting to learn more about all the societies he introduces…
Verdict: A strong SF debut based around some clever ideas. 9/10