Book Review: BEYOND THE HALLOWED SKY by Ken MacLeod

I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on blue and yellow blurred image
Genre: Sci-Fi
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 2.5 stars
Series: yes - first book in trilogy

Synopsis:

Book cover for BEYOND THE HALLOWED SKY: title in white below a small ship zooming towards a wormhole

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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

BEYOND THE HALLOWED SKY is a book where the premise is super interesting, but the style and structure of the book simply didn’t work for me.

I really enjoyed the idea of creating Faster-Than-Light (FTL) travel, and these strange rock-AI-alien (thingys!) who can control geology. However, it wasn’t enough to keep me interested and engaged when the story style was confusing me and making me lose interest.

This is a multi-POV book where the characters are largely unrelated until the very end, when their stories start to intersect (but haven’t yet linked.) The character who starts off the book, who the blurb focuses on, isn’t the focus of the story. She disappears for 100 pages.

It’s a valid, and common, story style, but it’s one that simply doesn’t work for me. These sorts of book feels like I’m reading random stories smushed together in one package (until they finally link.) I don’t have a reason to care about them because they’re not part of a whole and my brain has said “this first one is the most important, and the others can’t be as they’re not linked in.”

Plus it didn’t help that chapter one seems to be saying there isn’t FTL travel and that this is going to be a massive breakthrough. But chapter two? It says (3 years later) that there’s been FTL for 50 years. It’s explained later that some groups have it (and are keeping it silent) and others don’t, but that took a long time to come in. So I was left wondering if somehow the FTL had enabled time travel and they’d gone back to create FTL earlier?

These two things combined made it hard for me to keep up the interest to read along, as I didn’t know who I was interested in (so which POV I was waiting for) and also it was tricky to see how things lined up together into a coherent whole.

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