In the rather short lifespan of jakeisreading.com, I’ve only reviewed titles from well-known publishers. I was therefore excited when Rebecca Crunden provided me with a copy of her self-published book Dust & Lightning in exchange for an honest review. It turned out to be a no-fuss, straight-up space adventure that I tore through in one sitting. If ‘urban sci-fi’ or ‘sci-fi mystery’ were sub-genres* and I had my own library with an oddly specific filing system, this book would belong on a hastily installed shelf between the two. It has all the fun of Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series and a conspiratorial space adventure similar to Ann Leckie’s Provenance, resulting in a satisfying read.
When Ames received word from the Democratic Planetary Alliance that his kind-hearted brother was arrested and later killed on a transport ship, he was suspicious. When shortly after this his travel rights are suspended and he becomes the subject of government surveillance, he is convinced a nefarious plot is afoot. Taking matters into his own hands, Ames sneaks aboard a space shuttle and enlists the help of a new friend in order to uncover the shocking truth surrounding his brother’s death.
With the exception of shuttles coughing pollution through space and spreading humans to new solar systems like rot, surprisingly little has changed in the year 4054; London is still a soup of smoke and exhaust, people still glass each other in pubs, and politicians still suck. I’ve always been a fan of industrial, military-looking spaceship design as it feels like a more probable portrayal of the future than glass domes and platinum curves. For the same reason, I loved Crunden’s pessimistic take on far-future Earth. With passing mention of nonsensical environmental policies that feel familiar, it doubles as a critique of our current political climate and Crunden provides a timely reminder that humanity will require drastic reform if we ever want to live like The Jetsons.
However, Dust & Lightning is chiefly a fun and super satisfying space romp. Ames’ spontaneous friendship with Violet is adorable, and Crunden uses it to introduce a dry sense of humour to the book that I love and to further develop Ames’ character. The last third of the book came as a complete surprise to me, and I had no idea how Crunden was going to leave things until I reached the last page.
I really enjoyed Crunden’s accessible writing style, which felt more consistent and developed than some books I’ve read recently by bestselling authors. Some of the plot points could perhaps be interpreted as too convenient, but it allows for a novel’s worth of action to be crammed into an exciting 121 pages. If Crunden decides to develop her book into a full length novel, or revisit Ames and Violet in a sequel, I am totally on board. I loved Dust & Lightning so much I even asked my boyfriend if we can name a cat in its honour, but for some reason he wasn’t into the name ‘Lucky Shitpaw’. I’ll keep working on it.
“… the sight of books was always enough to calm. It was like they contained the souls of long-lost friends waiting for when you needed them the most…”
At a time when reading has become a little stressful for me, this book was a refreshingly fun read. Dust & Lightning is currently available in paperback or eBook through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Book Depository.
*If these are already things please contact me with the details immediately