Cover Image: Far from the Light of Heaven

Far from the Light of Heaven

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The premise of this novel was intriguing, but I felt the execution was a bit flat. The characters could have been more developed.
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An absolute page turner. Tade Thompson's writing is so descriptive that you'll find yourself unable to forget this for a very long time. This is a very thrilling mystery that kept me at the edge of my seat while I was reading it. I was arrested by the book, unable to put it down. You should definitely read it.
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A fast paced, intriguing and wild ride of a science fiction story!! This stand alone story really does have it all: a rogue AI, strong female protagonist, fun side characters, a murder mystery, a wolf companion, and more crises than you can imagine!! The tale begins with Michelle "Shell" Campion waiting to board the spaceship Ragtime as its first mate on an interstellar voyage where she will be in Dreamstate for 10 years on the outbound trip. The Ragtime is carrying colonists for the planet Bloodroot, and its captain in an artificial intelligence, so Shell's job is mostly ceremonial as the AI's always handle everything so well. Except this one time. Shell is woken from Dreamstate early to a ship where the AI is not responsive and the "you know what" has hit the fan. From here the story takes off and the twists, turns and wild events that take place keeps you thoroughly engaged in this tale. The interactions of the characters like Fin and Joke really make the story and enjoyed getting the backstories along the way. I recommend this book not only to people who love a good space adventure story but who also love a good mystery story. So this one's a winner on multiple levels!! A fun read!!
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4.5 stars  A locked-room murder mystery in space, Afro-Futurist settlements, an exploration of what it means to be Other in the context of AI, alien and the afterlife, and the truth of our complicated relationships with our moral selves, Tade Thompson’s  Far From the Light of Heaven has much to offer. The plot is a well-blended mix of science fiction and murder mystery. It has the pacing of a murder mystery with the slightly more frenetic edge of a space opera. Best of all the “who” in the who-done-it comes as a surprise (and yet not exactly?). But no spoilers. The one down side (though only.5 stars worth) is the ending, which left me wanting more. There’s no indication of a sequel, so… 
On the other hand, Tade Thompson wins for best quote in an “Acknowledgements” section: 
“Any mistakes or misinterpretations are mine.
 Blame me, because dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not an astrophysicist.”

(Btw: Tade Thompson is a physician.)

[An advance review copy of this novel was provided to me by the publisher Orbit Books (Hachette Book Group) and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.]
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This book kept me in its grasp from the very start all the way to the end. Each of the characters was so compelling and had explicitly unique character arcs and motivations that made the story utterly enthralling. Shell was a deeply passionate and really exciting protagonist and all the other members of her crew made for complex and very real relationships and struggles. The mystery totally gripped me and I was anxiously holding my book the entire time, and the connections between how this world worked and why the murders were happening made it that much more unsettling at times. It was honestly unlike anything I had ever read and I fully recommend checking this book out.
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Far from the Light of Heaven is the latest book from celebrated British/Nigerian author Tade Thompson, author of the Rosewater trilogy and the Molly Southbourne novellas (plus much other short fiction).  Thompson's debut novel, Rosewater, was an absolute triumph and one of the few books to which I've ever given a perfect score, and although I didn't love either of the sequels (which came out the last two years), his work has always been ambitious and interesting to me.  So I was excited to get an early copy of his latest novel, a scifi locked room mystery in space - a genre I'd seen done before by other authors to great effect.  

And like Rosewater and his other work, there's a lot of interesting ideas present in Far from the Light of Heaven.  However, unlike that trilogy (especially the first novel) which felt utterly unique, this novel feels very similar in concept to a bunch of other novels and doesn't quite measure up to some prominent ones that I've read (most notably Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty).   As noted by the author in the Afterword, the book also is the result of Thompson's attempt to portray realistic issues involved with dealing with what goes wrong amid a murder mystery on an actual ship in space, and that kind of in-book accuracy isn't really the type of thing I'm looking for in novels, so there's that as well.  The result is not a bad novel by any means - Thompson's craft remains excellent - but one that just doesn't really come together in a successful way, although if Thompson was to write a sequel, he does leave this world in an interesting place.  


-------------------------------------------------Plot Summary--------------------------------------------------------
The colony ship Ragtime's journey is supposed to be routine.  Michelle "Shell" Campion knows that, knows that her role as "first mate" is largely ceremonial, that her choice to work for the private corporation behind Ragtime is as much about her famous father's journey into space, that she's going to sleep for ten years and everything is going to be done for her.  Still, she is finally going into space, so she's going to work her ass off preparing for the journey so that she knows every little bit about Ragtime, its AI Captain, and the mechanics of the ship.  It may all be for nothing, but it's what shell is going to do.  

Ten years later, the colony world Bloodroot gets a distress call from Captain Michele "Shell" Campion of the Ragtime, asking for help, and reciting a code for multiple fatalities.  To get to the bottom of the mystery they send Fin, a disgraced repatriator of the alien Landers, to investigate along with his artificial partner Salvo. 

Meanwhile, Ragtime's distress call is also heard by Space Station Lagos, whose no nonsense woman in charge is desperate to ensure the Ragtime at least appears to finish its mission, so as to pass off the buck to someone else.  But figurehead governor Larry, a family friend of Shell, takes it on himself to make the journey to the Ragtime to see how he can help - along with his half-Lander daughter Joké.  

But the situation Shell has found herself in is far more dangerous than any of Fin, Salvo, Larry or Joké could have expected, with mysterious dead bodies, a strange animal guest, and some unseen force threatening big plans that could change this part of the galaxy forever.....
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Far From the Light of Heaven is a space opera locked room murder mystery at its heart, for better or worse, set from the perspective of a cast of characters with their own unique backstories, issues, and hopes.  But as you would expect from Thompson, the world this story takes in is far deeper than just the ship with its locked room mystery - and so you have a space station created by dreaming afrofuturists, who white supremacists cheered at first (because the Blacks were leaving!) only to greet it with dismay when the space station (Lagos) wound up being highly successful.  You have the colony world of Bloodroot, who survived when another earlier colony didn't by not trying to earthnorm its planet and instead tries to live with what's there....and to deal with the alien Lander species there in peaceful fashion, despite their odd effects on humans.  You have issues of class, of trauma, and a bit more here as well, which makes this world fascinating as more and more is revealed.  

Still so much of this world, is for better or worse (and again more on that later), secondary to the attempts of our five main characters to figure out what's going on, to find the culprit and to get everything under control.  Thompson makes it a point in his afterword to emphasize how he wanted to do justice to the idea of how a murder mystery would be affected by being in space - both mechanically and emotionally, and that poses a lot of the challenge for Shell and the cast, and allows them all to show their personalities (for example, Shell maintains a rigid sleep schedule for herself and others, even in the midst of the chaos, because she knows its easy to forget to sleep which will only make things worse).  So with Shell, you have the problem solver who is willing to do what it takes to get her remaining crew to the ground safe, no matter the cost; with Fin you have the investigator desperate for redemption who is similarly one-track-minded towards finding answers; with Larry you have the man tired of being just a symbol and instead wanting to do something, and finding an excuse in helping the girl he thinks of as an honorary niece; etc. (Salvo and Joké's motives are a bit more obscure).  It's a solid cast who plays well off each other, as things get more and more out of control as things are revealed about what's really going on.  

Unfortunately, what's really going on isn't really resolved particularly well, with the murder mystery's resolution just basically not being set up well at all.  The best murder mysteries are ones which tease out clues to give you a chance to, if not guess it, feel satisfied with the answer even if its not one that the reader could've expected.  Instead, Far From the Light of Heaven relies on a dump of plot reveals 2/3 of the way through, which reveals things that there was no hint or setup for to be significant parts of the answer, which just makes it all before feel kind of pointless.  The motivation for the eventual antagonist is generic and underwhelming and again not setup at all before the reveal, which also makes things kind of feel pointless.  And so much of the central part of this book is the murder mystery, so when that isn't really handled well, it kind of weakens the book significantly.*

*It's hard also not compare this book to Mur Lafferty's Six Wakes, another locked room murder mystery on a colony space ship, which has similar themes, but doles out its reveals over times in ways that make the reader satisfied with the resolution, and never feel like it was pulling things out of its ass.*  

And even the setting, which is fascinating at times, often feels disjointed and not connected with whats going on in the main plot.  Thompson basically admits in the afterword that he threw in Space Station Lagos and its Afrofuturist origins in because its what he likes, and he successfully makes that part of the setting fascinating....but it feels disconnected and totally separate with the main plot, and could've been removed without changing the murder mystery at all.  The same is true with the alien Landers, who are interesting but otherwise have little impact, as well as many other parts of the setting that I'm forgetting as I write this.  All of these aspects are interesting, and given where the book ends up, I'd be really interested to see where Thompson could take the setting from here, but as part of THIS book, they feel kind of a waste and a little pointless.  

So yeah, that's Far From the Light of Heaven, a book driven by ideas that don't really connect, centered around a murder mystery that doesn't really work, and with solid characters that are interesting but aren't special enough to make it all work despite its own flaws.  The first clear non-winner for me of Thompson's works.
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My feelings for this book were overwhelmingly neutral as nothing about this really spoke to me. I found that the story and the characters simply didn't hold my interest. There was a lot of potential, and I think that a lot of people would enjoy this, but it didn't do anything for me.


Writing:

The writing was digestible enough to get through, though there were a lot of short sentences which I am personally not a fan of. I would rather have a bit of a run-on sentence than short and to-the-point ones as it feels choppy and robotic. 

My only other issue with the writing was the format of the story. I found that there was a lot of wasted space due to the multiple perspectives. For example, an entire chapter was dedicated to the POV of a random character that contained only two lines of dialogue. I find that once you move past three POVs, the story starts to get muddled as there is too much going on. 


Plot:

As I said in the introduction, I didn't get much out of this story. This is not the first form of media to cover this kind of story, and it won't be the last. Now, I said that this had potential as there is a lot of room to create something different, but nothing about this stood out to me and set itself apart from the rest. 

I also thought that the story got too big. I might have enjoyed this better if it was contained only to the ship, and maybe partially immediately outside of it. When the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place this was made clear as suddenly the story got a bit too complex and outgrew its foundation. Despite the ambitious nature of the plot, however, for a good chunk of the book, I also felt like not much was happening. 


Characters:

As I said in the writing section, you follow a large amount of characters. Our main characters are Shell, Fin, and Lawrence, but because of the multi-pov, I found that I didn't get a good sense of their character as there was too much flip-flopping going on. The more characters you add to the story, the less fleshed out they become and the more muddled the story gets. 

I think it would have been best to focus on one, maybe two characters. The story would have been a lot more contained and fleshed out if, for example, it focused on Shell and then maybe Fin. 


Concluding Thoughts:

It is a bit of a shame that this book is wasted on me. I just wasn't able to get into it as the story didn't captivate me and there were too many characters to follow. If you are looking for something with similar vibes, you don't have to look too far as there are many books that focus on something going wrong on a ship. Nonetheless, thank you NetGalley and Orbit for allowing me to read this.
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3.5 Stars
This is essentially a closed room mystery novel set on a generational spaceship. I loved the premise. The book reminded me a lot of Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, which I would recommend as a read-a-like. This had a very similar plot with a mystery at the heart of the story. The characters, story and mystery were all good, although not particularly memorable. If you enjoy sci fi mysteries and are looking for a new diverse story then I would encourage you to give this one a try.

Disclaimer I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
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I have an iffy relationship with science fiction.  I find that most of the sci fi that I have read is meh.  It's either very technical (boring) or all military action (boring) or something weird like dolphins flying spaceships (could be good but usually not). I especially need good characterization in the sci fi that I read or I find that I tune out very quickly. Consequently, I am very picky about what science fiction I read. Which brings us to Tade Thompson's Far From the Light of Heaven. This is what great science fiction looks like!

A murder mystery set within a science fiction framework, this novel is able to blend both genres into a pleasing whole.  On a 10 year journey to deliver passengers to the outer colonies, First Mate Michelle Campion is woken early, from something like cyrosleep, aboard the AI piloted spaceship Ragtime. Once awake she determines that something is drastically wrong.  31 of the passengers have gone missing.  The ship's AI is not responding correctly. Campion send a distress signal which is answered by Rasheed Fin and his robotic partner, Salvo, investigators from the planet Bloodroot. But another complication has occurred: it seems the ship is now trying to kill them. The question becomes, can Campion, Fin and Salvo survive long enough solve the mystery of the missing passengers?

First, I have to say this is not just a mystery set on a spaceship.  There is a solid sci fi foundation for the novel.   In fact, the technology and the other sci fi elements (aliens, space travel, corporations in space, space politics, etc.) are all represented in the novel but done in a way that they add to the story instead of just being an info dump that happens and then is ignored. The universe that Thompson created is so inventive and realistic that you could believe that the future might look like this. It's the attention to detail, such as the fact that natural circadian rhythms are out of sync while in space, that make the universe feel real.

The characters of Campion, Fin and Salvo, among others, are so genuine.  Each one comes off as a complex person with their own hopes and fears. Thompson is not afraid to make his characters unlikeable. Although no one is really unlikeable, but can be prickly, sensitive and combative at times.  Just like real people. There is nothing in the characterization that will drop you out of the  story. I particularly enjoyed the interaction of Fin and Campion. They are allies by circumstance and yet, they both continue to mistrust the motives of the other.  I can completely see that happening in this type of situation.

As for the mystery itself, I loved it.  It was logical, surprising and so inventive.  All too often trying to write any sort of mystery within sci fi causes either the mystery or the sci fiction to be lacking. Not here. I honestly had no clue who the murderer was until the end. And there was no surprise twist or deus ex machina to ruin the ending.  The clues are there from the very beginning. This was a suspenseful, gripping mystery. I ende3d reading this is one sitting, ignoring everything else for the day.

Tade Thompson is an incredibly talented author. I am going to be checking out his other books as well as put him on my "authors to follow" list. This book is that good.

Far From the Light of Heaven is a book that no science fiction fan wants to miss!
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This is a weird mash up of a novel. Blurbed as a locked room mystery, I wouldn’t characterize it as that (need the breadcrumbs of clues IMHO). Sci-fi and Space Opera in parts. Moves to the fantasy in places.
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Tense and claustrophobic, Tade Thompson's latest does a good job with the "locked room" mystery idea by transferring the action to a AI-run spaceship with a thousand colonists on a long journey to a planet founded years earlier by Black Afrofuturists. They named the system Lagos and the habitable planet Bloodroot. 
The colonists are on their way to far-off Bloodroot, traversing through several wormholes. The first officer awakes at Bloodroot to find the ship malfunctioning, the AI down or damaged, and several colonists murdered with no idea how this happened.

There are several point of view characters in this story:
-Michelle “Shell” Campion, head stuffed with knowledge, but short on experience. This is her first time on a long space journey, and she’s to be mostly sleeping there and back while the AI runs everything on the ship.
-Rasheed Fin, an investigator on Bloodroot. He’s been off work for a year since his last assignment resulted in a death. He sees his opportunity to return to to work by investigating the unexplained murders of colonists.
-A former pilot, who is also a friend of Shell’s father, and now the governor of Lagos station. His daughter is Joké, an unusual young woman.
-The head of the Lagos Council; she is fascinating, and all the other councillors are terrified of her.
-An artificial being called Salvo. He’s been Fin’s partner for years.
-A gazillionaire from Earth, who sees his next big opportunity off Earth.

I found the story moved at a good clip, and the tension ratcheted up nicely with each new calamity on board, or with growing questions on Lagos station and elsewhere about what was happening with the ship and its colonists.

The characters and their interactions were well handled, with misunderstandings in approaches, mindsets and communication causing tensions to rise further.
I particularly appreciated how Thompson showed the mental costs of the chaotic situation in Shell’s need to continually work her worry beads and watch the Lagos star rise, all while maintaining her stoic demeanour. And we see how detrimental Fin’s year off work has been to his mental health.
As an aside, I also liked how the aliens on Bloodroot are not inimical to the human population on the planet, which is a nice change from the usual. There are misunderstandings, but no desire to hurt one another.
The murder part of the plot is full of moments of revulsion, fear and danger, and the relationship amongst the characters, as well as the implications of the murder investigation for Lagos, evolve believably. The reveal of the motive points to problems far off on Earth, and this, along with the way the story ended, left me hoping Tade Thompson eventually returns to Bloodroot and Lagos, as I think he's set up some interesting points for later stories.

Thank you to Netgalley and to Orbit Books for this ARC in exchange for my review.
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Many thanks to Netgalley & Orbit for the ARC — I would like to emphasize, firstly, that if you’re a plot-driven, frequent sci-fi reader, I think you’d connect with this and should give it a shot. 

That said, I really wanted to love this one, but it just didn’t quite click with me. When I heard “locked room mystery” with a limited cast, I was imagining more active roles for, and driving power from, the characters. The characters certainly had some interesting qualities and dynamics, but they didn’t do much to truly drive the action, in my opinion, until the end. I felt that the investigative aspect was overshadowed by more of a survival story than an active mystery for large chunks of the book, so I hope others go into it prepared for this fact and not expecting a hands-on unraveling of the truth but for a few parts and some accidental discoveries. The beginning was abrupt in a way that made it difficult for me to get my feet on the ground for a good chunk of the story — for a moment I almost wondered if I’d accidentally wound up reading a second book in an established world, without knowing it. This got better as the book went on, but I think it may have had a role in my overall enjoyment. Still, I can tell that this story has a solid audience out there and would recommend it to the right reader. <3
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Far from the Light of Heaven is the kind of book that grips you, shakes you around a bit, and leaves you ruffled up in the end. And how could it not? Shell, our main character, is the captain of a spaceship that is taking civilians to a colony who, upon waking, finds 31 of those passengers dead. Murdered. 
Far from the Light continuously throws unsettling events at you, chapter after chapter, setting a pacing that kept me hooked. With the setting of an isolated spaceship, each new oddity that occurred gave me chills and had me flipping page after page. 
And while the book may be relatively short, it packs in loads of content. From aliens (unique ones!) to AI, artificial humans, several new space colonies, etc. Far from the Light of Heaven feels like there isn't a single chapter, or sentence really, that isn't vitally important to the world building and the mystery at large. 
This book was such an unexpected adventure that I fell madly in love with.
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I had some gaps of days between reading this, so I didn’t always know what was going on and had to read back to get some context. However, once I had that context, I always got right back into the story. Thompson spins a hell of a locked door mystery, and I love that he set it in a ship where everyone’s been in cryosleep and wakes up to a bunch of dead bodies. There is a bit of an info dump at one point, but honestly, the way that it’s framed is very well done. How the politics of the colony play out in all of this is also a fun counterpoint to everything going down on the ship. I don’t entirely understand one of the alien races, but tbh, I can live with it. Definitely worth a read.
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This sci-fi space opera novel has pretty much everything that is great about the genre. It is also diverse, nuanced, and still has enough twists to remain a fresh entry into the genre. 

A number of perspectives are offered in this novel: (1) a beleaguered (and yet rookie) captain of a spaceship, (2) a detective trying to right past wrongs, (3) the detective's AI-partner, (4) an old ex-pilot turned governor of an Afrofuturistic space station, Lagos, (5) murderous AI systems, (6) an awful Elon Musk-esque kazillionaire (truly don't know how rich he is...just super rich), (7) the lead Council Member of Lagos, (8) the ex-pilot's half-human, half-"alien" daughter who sometimes slips out of space-time and into another dimension, and OTHERS...yes, there's more. At a certain point it could become confusing or tiresome, but it never does. It makes things more interesting to have such a cast of characters.

Michelle (Shell) Campion wakes up and finds that while she was asleep for a decade of space travel, dozens of her passengers have been brutally murdered. Rasheed Fin is sent to investigate what happened. Things spiral even further out of control from there, including wolves?! In space?!

This was a fun ride. It didn't drag at any point, and it wasn't weighed down by some of the usual jargon-packed sci-fi novels. I highly recommend it, especially for those who tend to avoid sci-fi for that reason.
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4.5 stars rounded up.

Locked room whodunit in space???? YES PLEASE!

I really enjoyed Far From the Light of Heaven. It was really well written and I was completely invested in figuring out what the hell happened on the ship and who the killer was!!! And it wasn’t just a typical murder and hide. It was SO GOOD! It’s one of those books that I wish I could just delete from my brain so I can read it for the first time again!

There were a bunch of AI characters (YAY!), a found crew, a philosophical clusterfuck on what qualifies as “good,” a wolf, and, of course, lots and lots of violence!

I want the wolf, just saying.

My only complaint is the completely random mini-romance that actually decreased my enjoyment. (Which is really weird for me because I normally LOVE romance in books!) I didn’t like it partly because of the hint of sapphic that was never delivered and partly because if just didn’t make sense. It was exasperating. You’re on a compromised ship with a mystery killer… probably not the best moment for this. It might have bugged me less if it was just a hookup. It just felt a little too insta-emotional attachment for my tastes. Especially when I’m way more interested in who the killer is and what’s going on!

Other than that, I really dug this book!!! I definitely recommend.

Thanks Orbit Books for sending me an earc of this book!!
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This is a locked-room mystery and scifi horror combined.  I really enjoyed the characters in this book and the mystery was very engaging.  I had never read any Tade Thompson before this but now I need to read more of his work.
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The main books endorsement, calls this "wildly imaginative" which is apt. There's some smart writing here. I liked this overall, and recommend it to those seeking a scifi mystery. This should sell well.

I really appreciate the free review copy!!
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This was an interesting book, I especially liked how it started in present day and the backstory of how was told later, very effective.  Michelle (Shell) is a recent graduate of NASA and is pouched by a large intergalactic space line to be the human captain on a 10 year trip to a distant planet, factoring in the return trip, she'll be spending the next 20 years in space, she is second in command to an AI, the ship is taking 1,000 people to live on this planet. All the passengers and Michelle are asleep during the trip.  Something goes wrong and Michelle wakes up to find that there are a number of missing passengers, she discovers they are dead and the AI that is controlling the ship is not responding to her commands as it should be.  The story is told from the point of view of a number of people, though I did not find it difficult to keep track of all the storylines. Things go from bad to worse for Michelle who has two different ships dock with her ship and board, one of the people who boards is someone she knows from her past and the other is a detective of sorts sent to investigate after Michelle had sent a mayday type request.  Saying a lot more about the plot would deprive readers of a truly fascinating story, I would highly recommend even if you are not someone who normally reads science fiction.  Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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Tade Thompson has written a most intriguing novel entitled “Far From The Light Of Heaven.”  Thompson, in his notes in the afterword, has described his story not as science fiction but more of a “locked room” murder mystery set in space. So Mr. Thompson has syncretized two of my favorite genres into a compelling, although for me, a difficult story to follow,  I do not blame the author for my difficulty: I have found that in my advanced age (AARP anyone?) that these high concept stories written by brilliant men and women are tougher on my brain than when I tried to tackle “Dune” as a young college undergraduate.
A couple of sentences on the plot: The colony ship “Ragtime” travels light years from home to deliver thousands of comatose people to a safe new home planet. However, over 30 of these souls are murdered before they get the chance to wake up, leaving the ship’s no. 2 pilot the new captain in charge of figuring out “who-done-it.”  Will she or won’t she?  And will the murderer kill her, as well as others, before the ship lands?  Also, will the ship land safely or will it be destroyed? 
All those, and many other questions, are posed, and answered, in this unique story.  Thank you NetGalley for this interesting and provocative journey to the stars…
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