Gareth Powell’s first novel punches above its (159 page) weight on ideas, plot and credible people
I came to Gareth Powell via his “Ragged Alice” stand-alone novel and his “Embers Of War” galaxy-spanning epic Science Fiction trilogy. He’s on my ‘read whatever he writes’ list, so when I saw that his first short novel had been given a makeover and was on available as an ebook for $0.99, I had to get a copy.
“Sileersands” is only 159 pages long but it punches above its weight.
The universe it’s set in has enough scope for at least a trilogy – an Earth diaspora through wormhole gates built by an unknown race and which we know so little about that ships can’t select a destination, they just have to roll the dice.
The plot is paced like a thriller, with action almost from the first page, murky relationships, betrayals, power plays and everyone trying to kill or capture our heroine.
There are big themes in common with Gareth Powell’s other books: the relationships between AIs and humans, the impact of living long lives and what it means to be human once you can be cybernetically augmented, genetically modified or cloned.
While I love all this stuff, the things that keep me coming back to Gareth Powell are that, in his books, actions have consequences and even key characters may not make it to the end of the book and that the people are real, relatable and central to the story. Powell’s talent for making me believe in his characters is what makes his books special for me.
Here’s an example of the kind of writing he uses to do this. This is a description of one of the characters meeting with his ex-wife:¨¨
‘She smiled. The corners of her lips crinkled up in a way that had once been irresistible but was now only comfortably familiar. The passion in their relationship had been one of the first things to go, second only to trust. In its place, however, there was a stubborn fondness.’
‘stubborn fondness’ – there’s a phrase to conjure with.