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Book Review: A Light Chaser's choice

World-building story of human relationships and technology
Light Chaser
Light Chaser, by Peter F. Hamilton and Garth L. Powell

Amahle is a light chaser, a person who travels from planet to planet throughout the galaxy collecting from and trading with various cultures of the human diaspora from Earth.  Due to the effects of distance and the speed of light, a trip that’s a few years for her can span thousands of years to the people of each planet. As a result, she becomes the stuff of legends, a near-mythical figure that can bestow great prestige on anyone she trades with.  Her trade is in stories stored on devices that she instructs the people to wear and pass down throughout the generations for Amahle to collect when she next visits. 

The truth is that the devices collect memories and can be played back by anyone. To pass the time between planets Amahle listens to the stories. To her surprise she finds within the memories someone talking directly to her, warning her of a major conspiracy against humanity. Amahle is forced to choose:  keep doing her job travelling endlessly, or believe the mysterious stranger and do something to disrupt the conspiracy.

Lighter Chaser is a novella co-authored by Peter F. Hamilton and Gareth L. Powell.  Both are accomplished writers on their own.  This is their first collaboration.  Hamilton is usually known for deep and complex world-building and a civilization-spanning story filled with dozens of characters.  Powell generally brings a more personal and direct human touch on his stories about individuals and their relationships with technology and artificial intelligence.  Clocking in at 173 pages it’s not even a quarter of the length of most of Hamilton’s works, and is about half the length of Powell’s. Yet in the short amount of space, they combine almost all of the hallmarks of both their works, bringing a surprising amount of depth to the universe while still keeping it from getting too bogged down in details. 

If science fiction is a new genre for you, this is a good entry point: it’s not long, the heavier concepts are balanced by the accessible writing, and gives you a taste of two different writers’ styles at once. 

Steven McCreedy is a library technician at the Cambie Branch of the Richmond Public Library