The latest from Arthur C. Clarke Award winner Tade Thompson (Rosewater) isn’t out until October, but Gizmodo has a sneak peek today with an exclusive cover reveal and an excerpt from Far From the Light of Heaven. It’s a standalone sci-fi novel that follows a high-stakes mystery that unfolds aboard a colony ship.
Here’s a brief description of Far From the Light of Heaven, which gives an idea of how the novel draws upon the British-born Thompson’s own Yoruba heritage to help set the scene.
The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having travelled light-years from home to bring thousands of sleeping souls to safety among the stars.
Some of the sleepers, however, will never wake – and a profound and sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel as its skeleton crew make decisions that will have repercussions for the entire system – from the scheming politicians of Lagos station to the colony of Nightshade and the poisoned planet of Bloodroot, poised for a civil war.
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Here’s the full cover, designed by Lauren Panepinto with images by Shutterstock, followed by an excerpt from the book’s first chapter.
Earth / Ragtime: Michelle ‘Shell’ Campion
There is no need to know what no one will ask.
Walking on gravel, boots crunching with each step, Shell doesn’t know if she is who she is because it’s what she wants or because it’s what her family expects of her. The desire for spaceflight has been omnipresent since she can remember, since she was three. Going to space, escaping the solar system, surfing wormhole relativity, none of these is any kind of frontier any more. There will be no documentary about the life and times of Michelle Campion. She still wants to know, though. For herself.
The isolation is getting to her, no doubt. No, not isolation, because she’s used to that from training. Isolation without progress is what bothers her, isolation without object. She thinks herself at the exact centre of the quarantine house courtyard. It’s like being in a prison yard for exercise, staggered hours so she doesn’t run into anyone. Prison without a sentence. They run tests on her blood and her tissues and she waits, day after day.
She stops and breathes in the summer breeze, looks up to get the Florida sun on her face. She’s cut her hair short for the space flight. She toyed with the idea of shaving her head, but MaxGalactix didn’t think this would be media-friendly, whatever that means.
Shell spots something and bends over. A weed, a small sprout, pushing its way up between the stones. It shouldn’t be there in the chemically treated ground, but here it is, implacable life. She feels an urge to pluck the fragile green thread, but she does not. She strokes the weed once and straightens up. Humans in the cosmos are like errant weeds. Shell wonders what giants or gods stroke humanity when they slip between the stars.
The wind changes and Shell smells food from the kitchen prepared for the ground staff and their families. Passengers and crew like Shell are already eating space food, like they’ve already left Earth.
Around her are the living areas of the quarantine house. High-rises of glass and steel forming a rectangle around the courtyard. One thousand passengers waiting to board various space shuttles that will ferry them to the starship Ragtime.
Shell, just out of training, along for the ride or experience, committed to ten years in space in Dreamstate, arrival and delivery of passengers to the colony Bloodroot, then ten further years on the ride back. She’ll be mid-forties when she returns. Might as well be a passenger because the AI pilots and captains the ship. She is the first mate, a wholly ceremonial position which has never been needed in the history of interstellar spaceflight. She has overlearned everything to do with the Ragtime and the flight. At some predetermined point, it will allow her to take the con, for experience and with the AI metaphorically watching over her shoulder.
She turns to her own building and leaves the courtyard. She feels no eyes on her but knows there must be people at the windows.
Excerpt from Tade Thompson’s Far From the Light of Heaven reprinted by permission. Copyright Orbit.
Tade Thompson’s Far From the Light of Heaven is out October 26; you can pre-order a copy here.
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