Author: V E Bolton
Finished on: 19 July 2017
Where did I get this book: A copy of the unpublished manuscript from the author
I recently rediscovered my love of science fiction with the Professor Challenger stories. It is a genre I don’t read nearly enough of. So, when I was given the opportunity to read and review the unpublished manuscript of Worlds Away, the sci-fi first novel of V E Bolton, I jumped at the chance.
This is an ambitious and epic tale of mankind’s journey to a far-flung galaxy, when the Earth becomes too overpopulated to support all the human race. In order to manage the rationing of the Earth’s finite resources, intelligence testing has been introduced at age 11 for all children to sort the population into ‘Better’ or ‘Supplementary’ person categories.
This classification, as well as raising huge ethical questions, is revealed to be flawed even at establishing a person’s intelligence. But despite this, it determines everything about the course a person’s life can take. And it is against this backdrop of terrible inequality that the intergalactic search for a new planet to call home takes place.
Bolton convincingly handles the science in her science fiction. Travelling through space for many months, and the impact this has on relative times across the worlds of the story, is all believable and coherent within the novel. The worlds of Worlds Away are easy to immerse yourself in, and the great tensions created by setting the story across galaxies and decades are managed with aplomb.
While it would be true to say that the plot and its central premise are the star of the show here, there is also much to enjoy in the way of characterisation. Bolton does not fall back on stereotypes or easy clichés with her cast of characters – yes, there are ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’, but everyone has shades of grey within them. And I found myself sympathising with one of her ‘baddies’ more than almost anyone else in the story.
Perhaps my favourite passages of all in the book are where Bolton lets her disgusting powers of description take centre stage. This is a writer with a gift for the grotesque and the gross. And maybe this says more about me than about her, but this is where the book really shone. A horrible death and a revolting antagonist: these were my highlights.
Worlds Away is the first in what is set to be a trilogy of books. We finish on a real cliffhanger, and I am dying to know what happens next.
A gripping read, and a seriously impressive debut.
The Amazon ebook is here. And a paperback version will be coming soon.