It’s a little bit strange that this is a new book because it feels a lot like something I might have read in the 1970’s.
People have left Earth to establish colonies – the colonies are based on their cultures, and of course the Americans and the Middle Easterners got into a war and blew each other up, leaving a lot of refugees. Lost in that war was the American technology for lightspeed travel. Currently, anyone traveling between the colonies travels in standard relativity time. This means that a trading ship might visit a colony, then head off for another colony and so on, and while only a year passes for those on the ship, it’s 24 years for those on the colonies.
The Hadjj are a family-owned trading ship. The entire family stays together on the trading ship because it’s the only way to grow up with your family.
The captain of the Hadjj makes a contract with a young, poor couple to commit their children in marriage – the captain’s son, Adem Sadiq, and the couples’ unborn daughter (who will be named Hisako). Only a year will pass for Adem on their trip, but the unborn daughter will be nearly 24 when they return.
For the young couple, it is a way to get their child out of a life of abject poverty and Adem will have a partner and mate – something difficult to find given his trade-ship life. But for Hisako, she grows up knowing of this arranged marriage and has no say in it and will meet her fiancé on their wedding day.
The book is from the alternating viewpoints of Adem and Hisako. Once you get past the establishing of the characters and the world that this is set in, there really isn’t much of interest about these two characters to keep the reader engaged.
The book felt heavy-handed with message and moral. There’s a the uncle who wants to get rid of the ‘liberal’ views of the captain (they’ve been rescuing refugees) and become more profitable, and he’ll do it by taking control of the ship. There’s the 60s/70s ‘free love’ attitude that we shouldn’t have hang-ups about sex and who we choose for a partner at any given time. And there’s the sense of music over-coming all ills. Both Adem and Hisako create music and post it to what constitutes social media in this future.
There is a little something that happens as we get to the end of the book, which has some interest, but because we’ve spent so much time with Adem and Hisako … who aren’t particularly interesting beyond their arranged marriage … the ending feels like a tacked-on short story to this book about Adem and Hisako.
I found the basic idea here interesting, and the writing decent, but the story was not well plotted.
Looking for a good book? The Light Years, by R.W.W. Greene was a bit slow and not particularly engaging.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Light Years
author: R.W.W. Greene
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 400 pages