Between the Stars and the Abyss
by Steve Holloway
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 18 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 19 Aug 2021
Lion Hudson Ltd, Lion Fiction
When your biometrics hold the key to unleashing chaos in the West, all you can do is hide.
Former special forces agent turned particle physicist Ben Holden is on the run.
The New Caliphate will stop at nothing to get their hands on his wife’s scientific research, which is believed to hold the key to unleashing chaos in the West and advancing their cause.
But in reality it’s Ben’s biometrics that have the potential to unlock the information they so desperately need. Within the oceanic world of Pelagia, in the year 2066, Ben finds sanctuary among the sea settlers of the South Pacific Pelagic Territory, but his respite is short-lived.
"I was captivated by this glimpse at a plausible and hopeful future for civilization." - Courtney Duncan, engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
"Pelagia beautifully blends fast-paced thrills, complex characters, and compelling, near-future science to deliver a terrific read." - Roger Martin, PhD, environmental and natural resource economist, California
"Such an enjoyable read. You're plunged into the story from the first paragraph, and it's a thrill ride from that point onward." - Nancy Gabriel, Electrical Engineer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 3 members
This novel is a Science Fiction adventure thriller used as a platform for a wide spread of the author’s ideas. All of these are worthy and interesting, but there’s a lot of them and the narrative occasionally stalls, mid-novel, when characters are used to explain ideas to the reader via speeches to each other when, perhaps, they could have been better explained through the narrative, or saved up for another novel. It’s almost as if the author thinks this book is his last-ever chance to communicate his vision to others. I will be mortified if this is literally true, but I suspect that it’s a misapprehension and in any case the best way to proceed is as if you’ve always got another book ahead of you. The pace picks up again and a lot happens before the end. The author’s primary idea is marine-farming and marine ranching, which leads him to describe a society which could not only make those complementary endeavours work, but also thrive as a culture and as part of the future world economy. That in turns leads to the ways in which that society might protect itself and what the threats to it might be. There are a lot of clever technological ideas inherent in all of this. The author also covers religious extremism in a way which sets neither Christianity nor Islam up as wholly bad, in that there’s no wrong way to believe in God: what’s wrong is for extremists to believe in their own power and ambition instead of believing in God. (The author doesn’t say so, but the logical extension of that is that completely atheist political activists might also believe in their own power and ambition more than they do in their ostensible political dogma. Sometimes, you don’t have to say something to get a message across and this novel could have been better if the author has been willing to let his readers discover a few more ideas for themselves.) Changing one’s beliefs, as some of the characters do, is not a betrayal if it’s a falsehood that’s being discarded -and this novel’s Turing test is that the machine intelligences cannot really comprehend the concept of God. (None of them act maliciously, though.) I recommend this with four stars because, despite all the shortcomings, there’s an awful lot of ideas here and that’s really what Science Fiction is meant to be about. To get five stars, the treasury of ideas probably needs to be presented in a different format to a single-narrative adventure novel. In the mid evening of her career the Science Fiction writer Ursula le Guin wrote a “future anthropology” entitled “Always Coming Home” which presented stories, both from a common narrative and from outside that narrative but in the same world and culture, together with descriptive articles, songs and even recipes. She was able to write something which immersed the reader in her ideas about a future society and culture (which included something very like a future evolution of the internet and Wikipedia, neither of which had happened at the time of writing) rather than having characters in an adventure give set speeches. (Which Greek or Roman readers might even have wanted.) I don’t expect Steve Holloway to do exactly the same thing, but I hope he can find a better way of putting his considerable number of ideas across.
I was immersed in the world Holloway created in our not to distant future. The plot was believable and kept you at the edge of your seat until the very end. Looking forward to Halloway's next novel.
This novel has so much going for it. It is full of intelligent, inventive science, believable characters and a cracking storyline. There are so many ideas floating about (no pun intended) mainly, in the shape of marine farming. But in other unsavoury aspects. The use of biometrics and other science is brilliantly done. Proof that the author has researched the material well. The settings above and below the surface of the sea are described with vibrant colours. And that paints a delicate picture of the harmony and the serenity of ocean life. Pelagia is a well written, well thought out novel. It approaches a subject that as yet is not universally explored. Yes, we have trout, carp, catfish, bass and salmon farms and maybe others, but extensive ocean farming! There is a lot of dialogue and speeches were prominent. Remember years ago when there was rumour after rumour that Americans and Russians were using dolphins for underwater warfare. Well. Even in 2066 religion rears, its ugly head and the East-West problems persist. There are twists and turns and plenty to keep the reader interested. I sort of enjoyed this book taken as it is meant to be taken as a science fiction novel. But I cannot help thinking that it is just as likely to be prophetic.