Book Review: Far from the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Orbit (October 26, 2021)
Length: 384 pages
I’ve read Tade Thompson before, more specifically his Rosewater series which I found to be quite good, and I maintain if you’re looking for one-of-a-kind sci-fi, his stuff is not to be missed.
That being said though, I did not enjoy Far from the Light of Heaven as much, despite appreciating its ideas. When I first learned of its premise of a locked room mystery set in space, a blend of my favorite genres, it sounded perfect for me. The story begins on the Ragtime, a starship carrying a thousand passengers in suspended animation to colony Bloodroot. Everything is being taken care of by the ship’s A.I., known to be the most reliable system there is, leaving not much for human first mate Michelle “Shell” Campion to do, though she could hardly complain. After all, the job is simple, and she’s also living her dream of traveling through space.
But once Ragtime arrives in the orbit of Bloodroot, Shell wakes up to a shock. The ship’s A.I. has been knocked out, and not all the sleeping passengers on board have made it through alive. On planet, Rasheed Fin is the investigator who receives Shell’s distress call concerning “multiple fatalities” and arrives on the Ragtime to try and figure out what went wrong.
One wouldn’t think such a straightforward plot could turn into something convoluted and meandering, but unfortunately that’s how things eventually played out. I don’t want to belabor the point, since I have much respect for Thompson’s writing, but I feel he might have been overambitious this time around. His first mistake was not keeping things simple, which would have made for tighter, far more entertaining storytelling. What I wanted was a locked room mystery, but what I got was that and a whole lot more—and not exactly in the good way.
Without spoiling the mystery, I’ll also say there was a lot in here that went absolutely nowhere. I was left with the feeling that Far from the Light of Heaven might have worked better as a novella, pared down to its main points without all the extras. By the end, it was difficult to even stay focused because we’d drifted so far off the point, and when the ending came around and not everything was resolved, that was the final straw.
Suffice it to say, I can’t really recommend this novel, though I definitely won’t let this stop me from picking up future works by Tade Thompson. His imagination is still unparalleled, but my opinion is that this is simply not the best example of what he’s capable of, especially if you enjoy more concise storytelling and closure.