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Arkwright by Allen Steele. Book Review

March 3, 2016


A science fiction writer’s legacy to the world when he dies is to seed fund the Arkwright Foundation dedicated to developing the means to travel to an Earth-like planet many light years away and create a colony on it. So begins the work of several generations of Arkwrights to make his vision a reality.

A great deal of science fiction jumps straight in at the level of advanced technologies with all the attendant world building required to bring a reader up to speed. In many cases this relies on a leap of the reader’s imagination or previous exposure to something similar to fill in the gaps. So for anyone wanting to dip their toe in science fiction for the first time it may all prove too much.

What Arkwright does is something quite different, beginning at it does with a group of science fiction writers in its golden age of fan journals, progressing through all the advancements in technology to something quite fantastical. This process gives the reader time to adjust at each stage, while still feeling a connection with the human story playing out alongside the great technological strides being made. It is that connectedness with what we know at the present time and the way it might develop, as well as how you continue to fund something that is more than one person’s life’s work, which makes this an interesting read.

Allen Steele really does manage to convey the atmosphere and politics of the nascent meetings of science fiction enthusiasts, dropping the icons of science fiction writing so seamlessly into the scenario that you begin to feel you should Google Nathan Arkwright to look at his life story. As the story moves on, and the Arkwright Foundation has to survive political changes of power with all the attendant shifts in fortunes, there is certainly a sense of genuine possibilities if this were to be attempted in real life.

In all, Arkwright is an absorbing story that has the feel of an epic described on an intimate scale.

Arkwright was courtesy of Macmillan-Tor Forge via NetGalley

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