Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Novella Files: Light Chaser by Peter F. Hamilton and Gareth L. Powell

Peter F. Hamilton and Gareth L. Powell. Light Chaser [Tor.com Publishing, 2021]

Accolades: N/A

Genre: Science fiction 

Executive Summary: In Peter F. Hamilton and Gareth L. Powell's action-packed sci-fi adventure Light Chaser, a love powerful enough to transcend death can bring down an entire empire.

Amahle is a Light Chaser - one of a number of explorers, who travel the universe alone (except for their onboard AI), trading trinkets for life stories.

But when she listens to the stories sent down through the ages she hears the same voice talking directly to her from different times and on different worlds. She comes to understand that something terrible is happening, and only she is in a position to do anything about it.

And it will cost everything to put it right. (From Goodreads)

Assessment: Light Chaser is one of the only science fiction stories I've read in which the futurism feels archaic--that's not a criticism. It's by design. Futures are typically one rich with progress. But sometimes a few steps forward can be a heedless walk into a trap, knocking you back, unable to recover. Progress is generally good, but choosing to walk down a seemingly gilded road might come with barbs because not everyone wants progress but everyone wants to live in their ideal world. And the method to achieving that world might be nothing but smoke and mirrors. Light Chaser doesn't portray a literal version of this scenario, but instead skillfully concocts vast space travel, intriguing worldbuilding, and a sprawling, multifaceted story to create a pretty successful story that marries those ideas with pulse-pounding storytelling.

This is a novella that knows how to pace itself--at least in its main plot. I'm a little conflicted of how it handles the side plots, which certainly expand the world but stall the momentum. That's also a compliment because I was hooked by the one-third mark of the story and my quibbles were due to my critical need of answers. While it's a gripping story, I didn't find it perfect. Especially because its characters' felt like chess pieces, molded to fit the novella's grand ambitions rather than feeling like complex, fully-formed people.

Light Chaser, like some classic sci-fi, is wholly married to its ideas sometimes at the sacrifice of character development. Unlike many of those stories, its ideas don't feel outdated and stuck in a rut. The novella's themes champion for marching forward, achieving progress to attain a greater society. It does so with elements that are often unlike anything I've ever read. Not only does it declare its admiration for progress in its themes, it shows it in execution, too.

Score: 7/10

POSTED BY: Sean Dowie - Screenwriter, editor, lover of all books that make him nod his head and say, "Neat!”