Synopsis: Before Hisako Saski is even born, her parents make a deal on her behalf. In exchange for a first-class education and a boost out of poverty, Hisako will marry Adem Sadiq, a maintenance engineer and self-styled musician who works the trade lanes aboard his family’s sub-light starship, the Hajj.
Hisako is not happy when she finds out about the plan. She has little interest in the broken branch of physics the deal requires her to study, and is not keen on the idea of giving up her home and everything she knows to marry a stranger.
Sparks fly when Adem and Hisako meet, but their personal issues are overshadowed by the discovery of long-held secrets and a chance at faster-than-light travel.
“The drummer began an awkward solo, and the girl picked up a bottle of water. She drained it and flung it at the audience. She picked the song back up with a riff that sounded like post-argument sex and screamed into the microphone. She was rail thin, her hair cut into a wedge. She had more tattoos than Johnny.
‘I think I just came,’ Ramona said.
I nodded, utterly entranced by the girl on the stage. She took up all the room and light.”
The Light Years is the debut novel by R.W.W. Greene.
Set 1,000+ years from now in the 33rd century, after the fall of Earth. Humanity left in search of colonizing unspoiled planets. Wealthy families (Traders) travel through space visiting other worlds, while the poor fight to live on their respective stationary planets.
Traders are known as immortals, because while they are out exploring other galaxies, they are only aging a year for every 24 that goes by planetside.
The captain of the Hajj starship, Maneera Sadiq, arranges a marriage for her son with a young poor couple in exchange for money that will help them out of poverty, as well as a paid in full education for their unborn daughter. The deal requires the bride to study in specific fields set by the contractor, which best benefit the business. Incidentally, these traits can be genetically altered (spliced) to enhance the skill set of the individual. As you do.
Adem Sadiq is a maintenance engineer aboard his family’s ship. He’s also a musician known as The Spaceman, who plays & records songs from Earth & releases the videos out into space.
He is to be married a year after signing the contract, leaving him with little time before his life as he knows it will change. Meanwhile, over two decades will pass in Gaul before his next visit to receive his payment.
Hisako Saski is that payment.
She learns early on that she has been sold into marriage, which of course brings up many complex feelings. She becomes combative & confrontational, unable to come to terms with the fact that she is basically just a cash cow for her parents. She resents the fact that every choice has been chosen for her future. She is forced to study obsolete technology, which she has no interest in whatsoever. Plus there’s the small fact that she has been promised to some strange spaceman who she has never event met. Although she is increasingly bitter about the circumstances, it’s complicated because she has lived a more privileged life growing up than she ever would have otherwise, but her freedom has been taken from her, as she had no choice in the deal that was brokered before she was even born.
The story follows both Adem & Hisako as they navigate through life & alternating periods in time, as we watch Hisako grow up & become a member of the ship.
Little do they know that Maneera has bigger plans in store for Hisako, which include obtaining technology on how to achieve faster-than-light travel.
“The attorney’s eyes widened. ‘I’m sure. Are there any other skills and interests you would like her to acquire? Cooking? Materials recycling, perhaps? BDSM?'”
Although the book is relatively short, there is a lot of story told here as we get to know these characters. It was a nice change of pace, allowing me to fully sink into the worldbuilding, which felt similar to Snowpiercer crossed with The 100. Greene has written a dark, quirky, sepia-coated atmosphere with a backing soundtrack of yearning, lust, joy, rage & love. And pure, unadulterated passion.
The Light Years is an exploration on poverty, arranged marriages, equality & freedom. It lays the groundwork for what I hope will be a sequel. FINGERS CROSSED!
R.W.W. Greene has written a family drama in space that feels like a modern classic.
(Big thanks to Angry Robot Books for sending me a finished copy in advance!)