Ten Low

By Stark Holborn

Ten Low, a novel by Stark Holborn
Book details

The best Science Fiction will tell a story, but also build a world. I prefer my tales to hint about the wider world and what happened to land the protagonists in their current position. Take Ten Low for example, a medic who roams a dusty moon. Her only goal in life is to survive and help others that she comes across. How did she end up on this remote moon? How did she get that nasty scar across her throat? And who are the mysterious Seekers? In Ten Low by Stark Holborn, we visit a mysterious Moon, but learn so much about the wider Universe. 

As Ten Low trudges through the barren lands she comes across a crashed craft, the only survivor is a young girl called Gabriella Ortiz. Like with so many things on this Moon, Gabriella is not who she first seems. Despite Gabriella’s duplicity, Ten’s sense of honour means that she will help the young women survive in this harsh environment. It is not like Ten has not got her own secrets she wishes to hide. She is haunted by voices who guide her to atone for a crime she will not admit to anyone. 

Ten Low is an evocative Sci Fi Western, so much so that you can almost taste the dust blowing into your mouth as you read. It begins in a mysterious fashion as we follow the lone Ten on her travels. Slowly the book begins to reveal itself as we meet new characters and new locations. Most residents of the Moon have a name given to them by another. This is because they are former convicts and the last act the warden provides is a new name. These ex-cons now must scrabble for a living on the edge of space, forever stained with a name of shame. Some learn to own the name, for others, it will get them killed. 

This book is full of great ideas like the above. The reader never learns about the prisons, but through the story of Ten and the people we meet, the world is revealed. Gabriella comes from a totally different background and highlights those who managed to be on the winning side of a war that spanned the galaxy. There are also the mysterious Seekers, a group of people who attack the weak, stripping them of anything of use from technology to organs. 

In all, this is a harsh existence on the fringes of space. No one really cares about the likes of Ten and that is what makes her character so compelling, as she still cares. She has an obsession to help others and only using her medic skills for good. Continue to read and you realise there is a reason for this compulsion, one that may shock many readers. Ten Low is book that contains several of these slow burning reveals that are woven into the narrative. As you learn more about the characters’ past, it changes the way that the story evolves. 

This clever form of storytelling is in keeping with the world building. This is a science fiction novel for fans of the genre who like to be challenged with several ideas at once. The central plot may be of a Wild West story in space, it reminds you of the Man with No Name, but in this case the reader does start to learn about the mystery behind the protagonist. A multi layered and intriguing science fiction novel, with both action and mystery. What’s not to like?   

Written on 5th July 2021 by .

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