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The Light Years by R W W Greene. Book review

February 12, 2020

Book cover of the light years

In a heart-breaking effort to lift their only child out of the poverty she was born into, Hisako Saski is promised by her parents in an arranged marriage to the son of a family-owned starship, the Hajj, before she is even born. When Hisako finds out later on in life, it is a situation she is far from happy with, particularly as the agreement binds her to study an obscure area of physics, which is far from prestigious. But when, at last, Hisako finds herself with her husband, Adem, and in the far reaches of space, her vital role in the fortunes of her new family come to the fore, because Hisako might be the key to unlocking a way of transport which could revolutionise interstellar travel for the Hajj and its shareholders.

If you are looking for a high-octane space opera, then The Light Years is not for you. This is a more considered piece of writing more akin to an absorbing, hypothetical anthropological study of living in space.

It is the minutiae which intrigue, namely the relationships and the fragile economy of owning a spaceship, as well as the ethics involved in trying to stay financially afloat, particularly when needing shareholder approval for any ventures the Hajj might be involved in.

Added to this are the consequences of going out into space at near light speed. Those you have left behind will have aged often quite considerably on your return, depending on how long you were travelling.

That two young people, who probably wouldn’t have chosen each other, are forced to be together in close proximity for long periods of time, adds to the tension of the story.

The lives and fortunes of the entire crew depend on them all working together successfully. That they are a family, related or not to the captain, creates interesting relationships and adds depth to the novel.

Captain Maneera, Adem’s mother, is a wise woman. Yet she is prepared to take calculated risks. She may play her cards close to her chest but treasures her crew. All along it is Hisako’s special knowledge that will be the key to their financial security. However, there are forces at work with their own agenda and this is where the machinations and action really begin to take off.

Until that point, sit back and enjoy an intimate view into a world of two young people feeling their way through the minefield that is a close personal relationship they must come to terms with, while trying to overcome commercial skulduggery and potential threat to the ship that they call home.

The resulting read is both poignant, throught-provoking and rewarding.

The Light Years was courtesy of Angry Robot.

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