Sometimes you get into a bit of a rut, just reading familiar authors, or picking out something old and comfortable to slip into as you take a long hot bath. So, it's a good idea to just occasionally buy a book because the cover art looks neat, or the back cover blab sounds interesting. I can't remember what made me add Steven Harper's
first novel Dreamer
(actually not the author's first novel - just the first under a new pseudonym
) to the black hole that is the to-be-read bookcase, but when came to choosing a book for this week's tube journeys, it was the first one that came to hand.
A far future space opera, Dreamer
gives us that old staple: the interstellar empire held together by telepaths. Starships plough the spacelanes, but they take days to get from star to star, and it's only the starspanning Dream that allows instant communication across thouands of worlds and thousands of light years. It's not a good universe to live in if you're one of the Silent, as these telepatic communicators are known. If you're not lucky enough to be pressed into government service, you're likely to be a slave. One hope for freedom is the secular monastic organisation known as the Children of Irfan.
The planet Rust has been devastated as the result of a vicious annexation by the Empire of Human Unity. In its ruins, somewhere, is the most powerful Silent ever. A small group of the Children of Irfan is searching the world for him, aiming to save him from certain slavery. It's a search that will lead to danger, death, and the discovery of a plot that threatens all Silent - human and non-human alike.
Harper's first novel is a good, fast read. At heart it's a standard space opera thriller, with plenty of action. But that's not all, there's also a lot of talking as this is a story about the philosophy of freedom, and its place in the calculus of moral relativism. With this mix, it's safe to compare Harper's stylistic traits with Sarah Zettel
or early Samuel Delany
. As it stands, Dreamer
is a worthy addition to any SF collection.