In the 25th century, only the Shoal possess the secret of faster-than-light travel (FTL), giving them absolute control over all trade and exploration throughout the galaxy. Mankind has operated within their influence for two centuries, establishing a dozen human colony worlds scattered along Shoal trade routes.
Dakota Merrick, while serving as a military pilot, has witnessed atrocities for which this alien race is responsible. Now piloting a civilian cargo ship, she is currently ferrying an exploration team to a star system containing a derelict star ship. From its wreckage, her passengers hope to salvage a functioning FTL drive of mysteriously non-Shoal origin. But the Shoal are not yet ready to relinquish their monopoly over a technology they acquired through ancient genocide.
©2012 Gary Gibson (P)2012 Audible Ltd
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Beholden to a star-faring alien race called The Shoal for all of it's interstellar transport, humanity finds itself divided and perpetually powerless in the galactic community of Gibson's story. When a derelict ship of unknown but ancient origin is discovered, opportunists race to exploit it's secrets for humanity's "Escape", but wrapped up in the same technology that makes transluminal travel possible is a dark secret that The Shoal is determined to preserve. The protagonist, Dakota Merrick, is a fiercely independent pilot, and works to uncover the truth while being coerced into helping an ambitious politician claim the prize. I enjoyed the final chapters of climax and plot revelation, although it seemed a long slow narrative road to get there, with frequent moments of déjà vu dialog. However, knowing this is the first part of a trilogy of stories, I am optimistic that the subsequent stories will open up onto a vaster canvas of settings and characters, and with any luck, explore the Shoal and other alien races more closely.
"Poor, Poor Dakota"
Stealing Light is, essentially, a story about a young woman with a computer brain implant designed to allow her to fly spacecraft better. Unfortunately it also allows other people to control her mind and this unrecognised fault has turned her and her fellow "machine heads" into mass murderers and outlaws. It's also the story of a very intelligent fish on a mission to save the galaxy, and a scientist from a culture of warriors blackmailed into helping some people he hates get their hands on a faster-than-light drive. There is intrigue and danger, and a great big cliffhanger at the end designed to get you to buy the next book.
Unfortunately, I don't think that worked. I'm intrigued to find out more about the universe Gibson has created, but I don't believe his characters. The fish is the most reasonable and consistent of the lot of them. Both our heroes get their behinds kicked so often it's as if they enjoy it. Our machine head heroine has tried to kill herself before, and yet she seems terribly reluctant to give up on life in circumstances which have killed others of her kind. The scientist seems like a reasonable man, but his actions in the last few pages of the book (or minutes, I read this on audio) seemed to indicate he had lost his marbles. The only reason I can actually come up with for that twist is that the author needed conflict between his protagonists for the next book.
So, I may pick up the next book in the Shoal sequence, but not for a while. Frankly, I'm fed up of reading about Dakota getting her ribs kicked.
"Disappointing after such a strong start"
Stealing Light disappointed me. It's got a fantastic opening but then proceeds at a snails pace.
The narrator lacks any real emotion or energy, she reads everything in a lifeless almost monotone.
The book obsesses over detail to the detriment of the overall story. I got two and a half hours in before getting hopelessly bored. Even after two and a half hours I had no real idea where the story was doing or why I should care about any of the characters. I'd advise skipping this.
I found I couldn't get into this book at all. I couldn't identify with any of the characters,I didn't care if they lived or died. Maybe it was just me but I found myself wanting the book to end, hoping it would get better but for me it didn't. Shame really as I liked the idea of the books universe.
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