Beyond the Hallowed Sky by Ken MacLeod
Title: Beyond the Hallowed Sky
Author: Ken MacLeod
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group Ltd., Orbit
Published Date: November 23rd 2021
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction,
‘An exceptional blend of international politics, hard science, and first contact’ Michael Mammay, author of the Planetside series
When a brilliant scientist gets a letter from herself about faster-than-light travel, she doesn’t know what to believe. The equations work, but her paper is discredited – and soon the criticism is more than scientific. Exiled by the establishment, she gets an offer to build her starship from an unlikely source. But in the heights of Venus and on a planet of another star, a secret is already being uncovered that will shake humanity to its foundations.
Science fiction legend Ken MacLeod begins a new space opera trilogy by imagining humankind on the precipice of discovery – the invention of faster-than-light travel unlocks a universe of new possibilities, and new dangers.
This was such a good book! There were so many things packed into those 320 pages. There was a little bit of everything for an everyday reader, if I am being honest. There’s science fiction, a little bit of a thriller and political intrigue along with first contact as cherry on the top. The characters were fleshed out and the plot itself was intriguing.
A letter from the future arrives at a young scientist’s address and at first, she’s completely baffled as to what the calculations might mean because it’s in her handwriting and she does not remember any of them being done in her life. They were also highly impossible in her present time as far as she could think. Still, thinking it was truly one of her calculations that she, incredibly, forgot, she presents it to her professor and unfortunately, it then makes rounds around her peers and she’s ridiculed for the idea of FTL that she’s calculated for. However, unbeknownst to her, FTL has been found for quite a while and has even been implemented already.
This is just enough to tempt a person into reading this, right? Well, guess what? There’s more. So much more. The first half of the book was a bit of a jumble for me, if I am being honest. There were multiple POVs and locations that we were given a view of quite abruptly and it took a while for me to get used to it. The second half is where I really started getting invested in what was happening. I feel like now that I know how the book is structured, I might be able to enjoy the next books more? Also, the characters are familiar, that’s always a plus!
We see FTL being realised from calculations to FTL submarine being built, there’s POV from a colonized planet that makes things far more interesting than I thought and there’s a AI/ robot spying on one of the cities. It’s truly fun once you get the hang of how the book is structured. I think that’s the only reason I have given this one 3.5 stars instead of a solid 4 star? Because everything else worked for me. Sure it took a while for the first half of the book to grow on me but the thing is, I read a lot of fantasy series and the first books are almost always a little hard to read. The setup and everything takes a bit to get used to.
Overall, I really enjoyed the ideas presented in this book because more often than not, you see books where space travel is so easy and old and taken for granted whereas this one offers a unique perspective. I really want to see where this series goes in terms of scope.