Far from the Light of Heaven

By Tade Thompson

Rating: 3 stars

Michelle “Shell” Campion is first mate to the AI captain of the colony ship Ragtime. When Shell wakes up from suspended animation at the end of the journey, she finds the AI incapacitated and several passengers not just dead, but mutilated and dismembered. Investigator Rasheed Fin is sent by the colony world to solve the crime,

I love a good locked room mystery, so it’s just a shame that this otherwise intriguing book isn’t really one. I sort of feel that in a good mystery/whodunnit, the reader needs clues and to be able to play along with the detective, and I fear we didn’t get that here, where the solution to the locked room mystery is dropped into our laps with the introduction of a brand new character about three quarters the way through the book. The book also changes from locked room mystery to space survival horror part way through, which isn’t really my cup of tea.

There’s a lot of good worldbuilding, with an Afrofuturist vibe to it and some interestingly weird aliens. The Lagos system is trying to do things differently from Earth, working in conjunction with nature rather than wantonly tearing it apart. That sits somewhat uncomfortably with themes about what you’ll do to protect your own and what that means for the future.

I think the characters are really interesting – Campion is a model astronaut, uber-competent and stuffs her own panic down deep while there’s a job that needs doing (sort of reminds me of Granny Weatherwax not having time to bleed). Rasheed is a little bit of an Investigator-With-A-Hidden-Past, and Lawrence, the former test-pilot and somewhat washed-up governor of the system is probably my favourite. He knows his work and is happy to take orders to try and get everyone out safely.

Ultimately, while I think there’s a lot packed in here, it’s not the book I was expecting, and that disappointment tinges my view of the book, as well as the fact that it went into tropes that I don’t particularly like. A book with strong characters and well-written, but it didn’t entirely satisfy me.

Book details

ISBN: 9780356514321
Publisher: Orbit UK
Year of publication: 2021

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