NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY BUZZFEED AND KIRKUS REVIEWS • With deeply moving human drama, nail-biting suspense—and bold speculation informed by a degree in physics—C. A. Higgins spins a riveting science fiction debut guaranteed to catapult readers beyond their expectations.
Serving aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft launched by the ruthless organization that rules Earth and its solar system, computer scientist Althea has established an intense emotional bond—not with any of her crewmates, but with the ship’s electronic systems, which speak more deeply to her analytical mind than human feelings do. But when a pair of fugitive terrorists gain access to the Ananke, Althea must draw upon her heart and soul for the strength to defend her beloved ship.
While one of the saboteurs remains at large somewhere on board, his captured partner—the enigmatic Ivan—may prove to be more dangerous. The perversely fascinating criminal whose silver tongue is his most effective weapon has long evaded the authorities’ most relentless surveillance—and kept the truth about his methods and motives well hidden.
As the ship’s systems begin to malfunction and the claustrophobic atmosphere is increasingly poisoned by distrust and suspicion, it falls to Althea to penetrate the prisoner’s layers of intrigue and deception before all is lost. But when the true nature of Ivan’s mission is exposed, it will change Althea forever—if it doesn’t kill her first.
Praise for Lightless
“Gripping . . . sci-fi flavored with a hint of thriller.”—New York Daily News
“[A] measured, lovely science-fiction debut [that is] more psychological thriller . . . contained, disciplined, tense . . . The plot is compulsive. . . . Lightless is the first of a planned series, and you can’t help looking forward to learning what’s next.”—The New York Times
“Lightless is full of suspense and fun as hell to read.”—BuzzFeed
“Absolutely brilliant . . . This is science fiction as it is meant to be done: scientific concepts wedded to and built upon human ideals.”—Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author of the October Daye series
“The stakes in this story are high—life and death, rebellion and betrayal—and debut novelist Higgins continually ratchets up the tension. . . . A suspenseful, emotional story that asks plenty of big questions about identity and freedom, this is a debut not to be missed.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A taut, suspenseful read.”—Tech Times
“Lightless is an exercise in lighting a very slow fuse and building the tension to an unbearable pitch while making us guess just how apocalyptic the ultimate explosion will be. . . . It is a high-wire act, a wonderment, and a fine accomplishment from a name we’ll be seeing again.”—Sci Fi
Debut author Higgins blends political philosophy into space opera adventure with moderate success in a series launch that rewards a patient reader. The experimental spaceship Ananke moves slowly across a solar system ruled by a ruthless Earth-based government too literally named the System. After two thieves with revolutionary leanings come on board, the ship and its caretaker, Althea will change forever. Higgins struggles a bit with the pacing after setting up the main characters, spending too long matching wits between thief Ivan, a jaded, unbreakable man who questions the System, and ambitious interrogator Ida, a flat example of government evil, while Althea tries to fix a ship that is transforming in response to the behavior of Ivan's partner, Mattie. However, the pace improves as the characters find common ground, and Higgins brings deep questions to the fore along with serious consequences for the characters' actions. There's plenty more to explore in this world for readers who can forgive a few newbie stumbles.
This was an excellent debut! I LOVE a well written sci-fi mystery and this one definitely hit that sweet spot between the genres. She really used the interrogation method to it's fullest, and the pacing of the story kept me interested and not wanting to put the book down.
As far as the publisher blurb about Gravity meets Alien... Well, I can see some small aspects from each of those in this story, the suspense from Gravity, a touch of the claustrophobic horror that you get from Alien, but really this book isn't like either of those. If you go in expecting one of those, then you will be disappointed. Also, you will be doing this book and it's author an injustice. This book is a beautifully written sci-fi story that stands on it's own. I hope to read more by her soon!
Very minor complaint: so many "A" names!
Highly recommended for fans of science fiction, specifically if you enjoy ones that have a mystery aspect to them. Closed-ship mystery is a great phrase for it. I really got a Alastair Reynolds vibe from this book, so if you are a fan of his, I think you would feel right at home in this story.
Oh, the author seems to have included some space opera easter egg shout-outs that I really appriciated, so be on the lookout for those while you journey aboard the Ananke!