This review of the first instalment of a new SF series by S.J. Higbee was originally part of a Blog Tour between October and December 2017 (more about that here) but I’ve been chronically late on book & movie reviews for the last six months (blame my non-fiction writing for that) so… here it is now.
First of all, the book’s details:
Running Out of Space (The Sunblinded Trilogy#1)
By S.J. Higbee
Genre: Science Fiction
And here’s the novel’s blurb, which gives a good introduction to what this is about:
Elizabeth Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…
I can’t recall whose idea it was. Just that me and my shipmates were sick of wading through yet another unjust punishment detail. So we decide to take ourselves off on a short jaunt to the lower reaches of Space Station Hawking to prove that fertile English girls can also deal with danger.
The consequences of that single expedition change the lives of all four of us, as well as that of the stranger who steps in to save us down in lawless Basement Level. Now I have more excitement and danger than I can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.
I have to say I’ve liked a lot Running out of Space and I do recommend it to all SF lovers.
It was not a surprise to me, since (full disclosure) I’ve “known” the writer for a while as I regularly follow her amazing blog. I found the setting believable and compelling (who doesn’t want to be a space merchant for a day? Moreover, the station’s descriptions are vivid and not too technical, a thing I know putting many people off action/adventure SF) and the novel action-packed, gripping, and easy to follow.
The characters are likeable, especially Lizzy, and it was refreshing to have a traditionally set science-fiction novel where the main characters are females. While SF has been definitively changing in the latest fifteen years or so, it is not changing fast enough, especially when we take novels into the equations (it is quite different for short stories, yes. But they are another market segment, with a different readership).
What didn’t work for me: anything in specific. I’d only note this is an SF book oriented (in my view) to a different / younger audience than what I usually read (it’s not the content itself, incidentally. There’s all the excitement you desire, politics, betrayal, murder, you name it. It’s the way it is treated). My SF favourite picks are generally SF novels darker than this, some of them straight SF/horror and often dealing with controversial themes. They also involve a certain level of scientific /political complexity in their worldbuilding and (a lot of) moral ambiguity.
This is not the case here: but if you want a family-suitable, entertaining novel you can keep on your bookshelf without being concerned your teen kids (or your mother) give it a try and remain shocked forever, this is definitively the reading you want to select.
I look forward to reading the sequel, Dying for Space, which is already out there.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the novel and S.J. Higbee, here’s the interview with the author, appeared in October.