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WesternSFA



Lightless
by C.A. Higgins
Del Rey, $25.00, 288pp
Publication date: September 29, 2015

The story opens on an experimental, highly classified spaceship with three crew – just three.  There is a Captain, a scientist and a mechanic.  I never could figure out why Althea was characterized as a ‘mechanic’ when she was, so clearly, a software engineer.  And that was just the first problem.  No, wait – it’s the title.  I never figured out the title.

Anyway…Althea detects an intrusion on the ship and the crew captures two men who snuck onboard.  And that’s when everything changes.  One of the men seems to have implanted a virus in Althea’s beloved ship’s computer.  Both men are known criminals with possible ties to a system-wide known terrorist.  An interrogator arrives to deal with the two men.  The computer virus continues to stymie Althea and her devotion to the computer/ship puts her at odds with both her captain and the demands of the high-ranking interrogator.  And…no, there’s nothing more, that’s about it for a plot. 

This novel is pointless.  I never did figure out who the author considered the main protagonist.  The structure borrowed a lot from the movie “Usual Suspects” – which also didn’t have a plot but remained entertaining, nonetheless.  This book did not.

The characters are pointless – other than Althea’s slavish devotion to the computer, we know nothing of the other character’s motivations.  We are supposed to view the interrogator as evil but she really isn’t –she’s just doing her job.  Or, maybe the two men are evil – but, no.  They are the epitome of the American romantic notion of an ‘outlaw.’  But they have more meat on their characters than the Captain and the scientist, combined.  And one of those men only shows up for maybe two pages in the whole novel.  There is no great conflict in the story – the interrogation is all there really is and the only point is to identify the head terrorist.  There is a payoff at the end but, at no point in the story, were either the characters or the reader let in on the impending disaster so there was no suspense.  The book also borrowed from the movie “2001, a Space Odyssey” but without the suspense or interest.  Even the sentient computer couldn’t save this book.

The author can clearly write competently but that isn’t enough to spin a story.  And that’s what the reader is entitled to:  a story.  I am shocked that a publisher actually bought this; much less, published it as a hardcover.  Maybe you’ll see something I missed…  ~~  Catherine Book

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