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on 13 March 2008
It is the 25th century and the Consortium spreads out over an area of space in the orion arm. Although humanity do not have the capability to use ftl travel, a species called the Shoal do, and are the only species in the galaxy with that know-how. They happily transport humans within the area they have been designated, but they also put strict limits within the agreement they have with humans, one among many being the prohibition of research into ftl travel.

Dakota Merrick is a machine head, a human with implants that were made illegal after a terrible attack that killed many innocent humans. She now does whatever work she can get using her ship, Piri Reis, although sometimes taking dangerous cargo to keep the money coming in. It is during a job like this that things go wrong and she must get out of the Sol system quickly and keep her head down. She gets work on board the Hyperion, working for the Freehold in what she is told is a scout mission searching for a new planet for them.

Lucas Corso is blackmailed into working for the Freehold, his specialist skills in Shoal computer language desperately desired. The Freehold have discovered a derelict ship, one with ftl capabilities, but not of Shoal origin. They hope to retrieve this ship and use it for what they hope will be a glorious victory over their enemies and the start of independent human expansion throughout the galaxy, all under their watchful eye. However, the Shoal have kept a secret for thousands of years and are prepared to protect it at all costs. Now that this derelict is discovered, that secret is at risk of being revealed.

The derelict found by the Freehold is the main focus of this novel and brings together all characters we meet. This means that the story is very well defined and doesn't wander needlessly, something that makes it so much more enjoyable. Don't get me wrong, there are some things bought up that I would like to know more about, but the story would suffer if they were included, mainly because they are more general aspects of the history and events rather than anything directly involved in the novel.

The characters are also well developed, with sections going back to the earlier life of Dakota explaining in more detail about the situation around Machine Heads. As we're constantly aware of how her type is viewed by the Freehold (and Consortium as a whole) there is always that question in the back of your mind of why she is treated like that. When the thread does conclude, we're fully aware of how the revelations will impact the story, perhaps a little obviously. However, the full revelation happens late enough in the story for it not to matter too much and most will probably figure it out before this anyway.

The other characters are mainly supporting ones, with the main focus being on Dakota. This actually helps the story move along at a steady pace as we're not getting too many viewpoints to the events. Although the stuff I read usually has multiple plot threads and character viewpoints, this was a refreshing change. A story that has such huge ideas and conveys them in a cast relatively small is a nice change, but this also shows great promise for the future novels following on from these events.

At the end of the day, I was mightily impressed with what Gary has done here. The change in his style and ability from Angel Stations is noticeable and very promising. This is a very enjoyable read and at times I was a real page turner. Perhaps a downside is the fact that the novel plays out pretty much as expected with no real surprises, just revelations that add to the experience and general feeling of the novel. I'll be adding Gary to my by on publication list now and eagerley look forward to the continuation of this story.
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on 3 September 2008
The story is really strong and there are some excellent ideas here. The ending is also very good - I thought there would probably be some sort of 'get-out' but there wasn't - the characters have to live with the results of their actions.

But this book is just so badly written. The continual use of really over-the-top metaphor just reduces the whole thing to almost a pastiche of Flash Gordon - it is so 'gee-whizz' that it really started wearing me down. Yet I got through it - and I got through it because the ideas were so strong.

I think comparing it to early Alistair Reynolds is probably fair - but I actually got through this, whereas I simply gave up on Revelation Space. Give him his due, Reynolds has improved considerably since then. His latest - House of Suns - is a good read. So here's hoping Mr Gibson improves likewise.

What am I going to do when the next one comes out? Torn between the lure of some really powerful sci-fi ideas and the complete turn-off of a positively juvenile literary style; well, to be honest, I'll probably buy it. If you've ever read any early Alfred Bester (not including The Stars My Destination), you'll know that substance can definitely make up for form. :-)
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on 29 July 2010
After reading through these mixed reviews and deciding to buy the book and find out for myself. I've decided to pass on my thoughts.

First of all, don't buy the book expecting Hamilton, Banks or anyone of that ilk. As this is not the same scale, style or general read. However, it is entertaining, fairly fast paced, and a good overall idea (as mentioned before).

The main issue is it's just not as deep as other books I've read.

My advice would be not to expect too much and you "should" enjoy it. I've recently got into Neal Asher I would recommend him if you have finished most of Hamilton and Bank's work.

Hope this is helpful.
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on 13 October 2008
This is a strange read from beginning to end. The plot was either frustratingly obvious, with the characters piecing it together like a drunk attempting a jigsaw puzzle, or just confusing, with random leaps of logic. There were some great ideas in there, original and solid, but the delivery was a little off. It's also worth saying that I'd read the next in the trilogy, if only to find out what happens next as the ending a very abrupt (and a little daft). Not a bad holiday read.
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on 28 December 2008
"Stealing Light" was a great read - I swept through it very quickly. The action moves through a series of settings, roughly aligned with the three parts of the book, and each setting is driven by different but overlapping concerns. The ending was good but seemed to be a rather sudden turn-around in the last page or two. I can't help but think that there was a better book lurking in here which weaves the plot strands a little more elegantly.

This might sound like a negative review but despite all this I really enjoyed the book and liked the ideas behind the plot. I felt the book had some resonances with themes in the "Babylon 5" TV series. I'll be trying one of Mr Gibson's other books.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 27 August 2011
Good, or even great, sci-fi space epics are, unfortunately, fairly few and far between. Some read in a very formulaic way; some are superficial and not thought through. This book, the first in a trilogy, has clearly been very thoroughly thought through by the author.

I found the beginning a bit confusing - leaping chapter to chapter through different times in the ensuing story made for a rather unnecessary confusion that a chronological narrative would not, I felt, have done. While I can understand the author wanting to get right into the action and grab the reader's interest, I felt that this undermined a coherent and cohesive beginning to the book for a few chapters. However, once you got all that straight in your mind, the action moved along very briskly.

The only other grumble I have is that the `heroine' character seems a bit of a mass of contradictions - for someone with her background, and with her AI implants etc., she seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time in the book naked and/or weeping. A bit odd, I thought. However, as the book progressed and we saw more action from the perspective of other, male, characters, this slight annoyance seemed to be more of a background issue than in the first part of the book.

The world that this book is set in reminded me of the Deathstalker worlds (series of novels by Simon R Green) - implants, `Ghost' technology, AIs, weapons of mass destruction, alien species, debauchery in the world lived in by the disgustingly rich and powerful - but that's not a bad thing. It's as valid a `future' or `alternative' reality as any, and, well-written, is highly entertaining for the reader. I loved the Deathstalker novels, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book - hopefully the following books will be just as entertaining and action-packed. Certainly by the end of this first part of the trilogy the setup for further action and intrigue seemed to be well under way.
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on 27 February 2014
The basic plot: Aliens rule the galaxy through being the only race that has faster than light travel (called the Shoal), they rule through simple economics and brutal colonisation policies that they enforce on client races. Every race in the galaxy wants the secret of FTL travel and some are very determined to get it, humans not being exempt from this.

So we have a bunch of humans, desperate to get the secret of the FTL drive and willing to do just about anything for it. In the middle we have two people, one who can translate the Shoal's ancient language, the other has implanted high tech computer links in her brain - a machine head - who can talk to computer based systems directly. Thrust together they must overcome very suspicious circumstances and enormous hatred to work together on cracking the secrets of the FTL drive.

The book is epic in scope, and is the first of three novels set in this same universe. As things progress we get to understand more about the Shoal's motivations and their dark secrets as well as those of the two main characters.

Characters are well crafted and stay true throughout, the over arching plot is detailed and involving. Humans are typical humans, pretty much like we are now, greedy and rapacious and kind and helpful. The aliens are, well, alien.

I've read this booka couple of time and throughly enjoyed it each time. It gets better each reading too as plot lines are enhanced by the 'you-know-what-this-bit-really-means' mechanism of reading something again. A rare and enjoyable aspect of storytelling.

Overall, yes a definite 5 stars from me for this book!
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on 12 February 2014
A solidly constructed addition to the modern space opera genre.

Plenty of other reviews go into great depth.

So what is good - it reminds me of early - Alastair Reynolds and some of Peter Hamiltons works.
Its maybe not quite as polished as either of these , but the plot is solid and theres plenty of action.
theres cosmic import - megayear backstory, cosmic alien threats, hackers, cyborgs etc.

What gripes - not much really - its good - but maybe all my negatives are only because im comparing it to these other contemporary writers who write similar stuff. Ten years ago this would have been groundbreaking - now its riding the coattails of other writers success. That doesn diminish whats a solid good read. But it leaves you comparing it to its obvious inspirations.

Anyhow - if you like Reynolds - its more similar to that than other works. its not as violent or as nihilistic as Asher, and its not as compelling as Hamilton, but its a decent read at a great price point on kindle and better than 95% of the other stuff out there.
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on 8 November 2012
To be honest the first chapter put me off the book. It was messily written and required a few re-reads just to get hold of the character. For example, an image was presented in one paragraph and then dismantled in the next and replaced by something else. Then again and again.

After a few of these it was tiresome to try to follow who was really the first character that we met.

It really could have done with some more editing to make the book read well. After a good number of pages of this I just tossed it; there may have been a good tale in there but it needs a lot of polish.
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on 28 October 2014
I got about 4 chapters in and had to give up. The premise is good and I like some of the technology that is in it, but it is a very confusing writing style. There is too much metaphor when describing the world around the characters which detracts from the ease and pace of reading. I actually skipped a page to see what the main character was going to do next, then went back because I thought I may have missed something. No, I didn't. Just skipping a page of unnecessary description of the events happening (the asteroid falling apart). I have the Kindle version and it is about 330 odd pages long. With a few re-edits I think the story is probably about 275.

This is a promising book, let down by a confusing and unnecessary writing style.
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