Far from the Light of Heaven

By Tade Thompson

Far from the Light of Heaven, a novel by Tade Thompson
Book details

The locked room scenario is a classic tool in crime fiction that most great authors in that genre have tried at least once. The premise is that someone has apparently been murdered in a room that no one else can get in or out of. This may mean that the killing should have been impossible, or that the killer is someone in the room. The concept has been expanded to Country Homes and even islands, but Tade Thompson takes the concept into outer space with Far from the Light of Heaven when a murder occurs on a spaceship in which all the passengers are in hyper sleep. In space, no one can hear you being murdered. 

First Mate Michelle Campion is part of a famous spacefaring family, but her assignment on the spaceship Ragtime is her first. She is not even the captain, that role goes to the ship’s AI. There has never been a crisis on any deep-space voyage in the past so when Campion wakes up to discover a pile of dismembers bodies, something is certainly amiss. She now finds herself in orbit around the planet Bloodroot who send up a pair of unconventional investigators in the form of the disgraced detective Rasheed Fin and his synthetic partner Salvo, to investigate. With the murderer still on ship, who can Fin trust? The captain, the AI, or only his own instincts?  

Crime and science fiction are two genres that blend brilliantly as a mystery is a great way of grounding what can be an overwhelming concept. The reader is always drawn back to the central crime core of the book, no matter what tangents may be fired their way. This is exactly how Thompson uses the locked room scenario in the book. As the story progresses the concepts become wider and the world building deeper. The character of Fin keeps the narrative and the reader grounded as the detective searches for the killer as all hell breaks out. 

Using a locked room puzzle to build the story on adds an extra layer of complexity and Thompson does a decent job of respecting the crime genre elements of the story. There is no cheating allowed. Something has happened within the confines of the ship that led to mass murder, but what? The reveal happens over a few twists and turns, remaining true to the unofficial locked room rule set. Thompson cleverly uses flashbacks to explore the crime, but also to develop some great world building. 

As mentioned, the crime within Light acts as an anchor for the story and this is needed as it is also an action thriller. Without the use of a fully functioning AI, Campion becomes the acting Captain and must keep the deteriorating ship in one piece. With the lives of hundreds of sleeping passengers in her hands, this is stressful. This is a book in which it never rains but pours. There are lots of action set pieces as Campion and those who find themselves on the ship must hold it together. Fans of disaster movies and space exploration fiction will also get a kick out of the book.  

Light is a novel that successfully combines the locked room subgenre with a space adventure. There is character development in the book, but it is sacrificed for the abundance of set pieces. You get to know the likes of Campion and Fin, but in traditional crime story you would have more suspects to choose from. Light goes with the option of introducing elements later in the book that make wrapping up the crime simpler. I would recommend the book to science fictions fans who like action and trepidation in their novels. The bonus is that they also get a solid crime riff that holds proceedings together. 

Written on 4th November 2021 by .

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