The Light Years, by R.W.W. Greene

ksullivan's review

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adventurous medium-paced
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes


elemee's review

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hopeful medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix


caitsidhe's review

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adventurous challenging emotional hopeful mysterious tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


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thesffreader's review

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Review first published on The Curious SFF Reader

Set in a future where humankind left a dying Earth to reach the stars, The Light Years follows Hisako Saski and Adem Sadiq, two people forced to marry to fulfill the wishes of their respective families.

The Sadiq own The Haji, a sub-light ship used to carry goods between planet. While this ship is very valuable, it’s getting old and the family cannot afford to lose it. The captain has a plan to transform it by using the remains of a warship powered by a lost technology. To do so, she needs the help of a physic scientist well-versed in the subject.

Hasiko Saski’s parents decided she was going to marry into the Sadiq family before she was born. This alliance is the only way for her to have a good education and a relative peaceful life on Freedom, a planet that is slowly yet surely succumbing to a civil war.

Hisako learns about the arranged marriage as a child and she’s definitely not pleased about it. Especially because one of the requirements is that she must obtain a PhD in United America- a long lost civilization- physics.

I didn’t expect this book to be what it was. With the synopsis, I thought it was going to be a kind of enemies to lovers’ space romance with a bit of political maneuvering thrown into the mix. It wasn’t, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the story. On the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised to read a fascinating story following two protagonists trying to live their best life in a world that is falling apart.

The worldbuilding was wonderful. Basically, in this future, if you’re not wealthy enough, you cannot have children. If you still decide to have children, you have to either abandon them in the street, indenture yourself to buy the right to keep them or, legally bind them to a company or a family.

In the case of Hisako, a marriage contract was the only solution for her parents to provide her with a good life – food, a home outside of the refugee camp of Freedom and education. The only requirement of the contract was that she spent 2 years working on the ship.

This book follows each character and we get to see how they experience time and life very differently. The story starts with Adem visiting Freedom to sign the marriage contract when Hisako isn’t even born. He then returns on the Haji to continue his work on the trade ship. The Haji is traveling almost at the speed of light so while he is traveling from planet to planet, his relative time is not moving at the same rate as Hisako’s. Which means that for the first part of the book, we follow Hisako’s first 24 years of life, which represents only a couple of months for Adem.

It created a very interesting dynamic: the two characters have very different approaches to the arranged marriage and we get to see how they deal with it in their own way and for different lengths of time.

I also really enjoying discovering the reasons for this unlikely alliance and how business-like it was for Adem’s family. At the same time, I feel like I wanted the two characters to get along because I could feel like I knew them so well. However, I could definitely understand the frustration each party had for one another, especially when they first meet.

I just have to reiterate that this is not a romance story, I think the blurb is pretty misleading, it’s not lying per say but if you decided to pick up the book because of that, you might feel deprived from what you wanted. I didn’t mind because this book had a lot of elements that I found fascinating. It was however, definitely slow and character-driven. The plot is not groundbreaking and not a lot of things happen.

I didn’t find it boring at all because I had way too much fun learning about the world and the characters but I think it’s worth mentioning. For me, it shares a lot of similar traits to A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. To be honest, I actually liked this more than Chambers’s works because the structure and the themes explored in this book were more interesting to me.

If you are looking for a quiet science fiction story with two interesting characters who are just two good human beings trying their best, I would definitely recommend The Light Years. I hope Greene will write other books or stories set in this world because I will be reading them.

Four stars.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Angry Robot. All opinions are my own.

annarella's review

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An excellent sci-fi with a great world building and fascinating characters that are well developed.
The writer is a talented storyteller and I was fascinated by the world building and the voice of the different characters that creates an entertaining and engrossing plot.
I hope this is the start of a series because I want to know more and travel with these characters.
In any case I look forward to reading other stories by this writer.
It was an excellent read, highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

jantine's review

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I found out this book was still on my shelves, and I am glad I did.

The world Adem and Hisako live in, is far from perfect. It would have been the most travelled path to focus on the problems like social and financial inequality, the power the rich have over the poor, or to have a main character living in squalor. But none of that, Greene focused on the middle class, and those who are rich enough and privileged enough, but still have to work hard to keep that privilege. 'The Light Years' goes deep into what this kind of society does to those people, while it still points out their privilege and how they struggle with wanting to help the poor they see, but not being able to help all. It also doesn't forget all those common human feelings and emotions that are still there, no matter what the problems are. It was very refreshing to read, and I'd love to read more from this writer, and more in this setting! Especially since I want to know how all of the people I learned to like and appreciate are faring after this book ends.

I received a free copy through Netgalley in return for an honest review.

tachyondecay's review

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Relativity can be awful sometimes. You get in your spaceship, leave a planet, and you come back a few months later only to find that years have passed and your family is old or dead and all your plants died because YOU COULDN'T WATER THEM LIKE I ASKED, KEVIN?

Anyway, most science fiction stories use a trope, like faster-than-light travel, to avoid dealing with relativity. Not so R.W.W. Greene. In The Light Years, the time dilation effect is embraced as a principle plot device. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and Angry Robot in exchange for a review.

Adem Sadiq needs a wife. Well, he doesn’t need one. But his mother, captain of the Hajj, wants him to get one who is knowledgeable in the physics of an extinct culture, the United Americas. So he contracts with a couple who will have a child, and then when the Hajj returns to that planet in 20 or so years relative, the child will be old enough to marry him. It’s very creepy, and if it were a straight-up romance I might have to throw my Kindle across the room. Fortunately and unfortunately, The Light Years is more of a time-dilated thriller with a hint of odd-couple comedy thrown in, and I guess that’s ok.

My major issue with the book is that the main characters take so long to bake I felt like I’d aged 20 years. Adem has very few defining qualities for the first half of the book. We just kind of … exist alongside him. Eventually we learn he likes playing music and he has an overly-developed conscience. Yay for defining characteristics! Other than that, however, he’s just so bland. Hisako is a little better—we literally see her grow up from a baby to a young woman, so she kind of has to have character development—but the snapshot effect means we seldom see her grapple with issues on that micro level. And since, as I said before, the whole “I arranged for your creation” thing is extremely creepy, I’m glad the romance angle doesn’t actually land hard, because that would make things worse.

Similarly, the principal antagonist is very one-note in his moral development. We get it: he’s a profit-driven bad guy who doesn’t respect human rights, whereas Adem and most of his family are upstanding, moral people. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this dynamic, but like Adem himself, it’s just a little bland. The tension created by the structure of the Hajj’s shareholders isn’t sufficient by itself to keep me interested.

The Light Years is at its most interesting when Greene pulls back the curtain on the wider universe he’s designed and invites us to consider the side effects of relativistic inter-system travel. The cycle of political unrest on various planets and the social inequity is very fascinating. I dig the amount of thought Greene has put into this world, as well as the time taken to craft the story itself. However, the actual style in which the story gets told? Doesn’t work great for me.

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