Beyond the Hallowed Sky, Lightspeed Trilogy – Book One, Ken Macleod,
Orbit, P/B, £8.99
Reviewed by Steve Dean
Lakshmi Nayak is a scientist who one day receives a letter from her future self. In this letter, she finds equations that apparently show a method of allowing faster-than-light travel, and by extension, time travel. (Personally, I would also have included numbers for the next lottery jackpot and told myself not to have the chicken, but that’s just me.) These equations work out on paper, but her theory is discredited, and she’s ostracised by the wider scientific community for her work, which seems a bit harsh. As this is a novel, this state of affairs doesn’t last, and she soon receives an offer to help build and test a machine that can move in both space and time.
In this particular reality, the Earth is divided into factions, not at war but certainly not allies. It turns out one of them has had this technology and kept it secret for over fifty years. Many humans have been beyond the solar system, have set up colonies on other planets, and have now encountered something not human.
For the most part, the story holds together well. There are two main story threads, one involving Lakshmi and the other which follows the investigation of the alien thing and some political manoeuvring among the factions. There are a lot of characters for a novel of this length, but it is a trilogy, so maybe there’s room for them all later. The characters are four-dimensional with flaws and all, the world-building is interesting, and overall the story flows as it should, although the pacing is a little slow in places.
I found it to be a good read, but for me, something was missing. It was fine but could have been better, like a cake with missing or wrong ingredients. The individual elements: characters, pacing, world-building, etc, were ok, but together they just missed the mark.
I won’t be rushing out to buy it on the day of release, but I’ll certainly be reading the next book in the trilogy.