Hey everyone, Dave here. Hope you’ve all been well!
I’m back with a new review, this time a with a look at Tim Lebbon’s ‘Rime’. I said on FB, while I was reading it, that the tale reminded me of why I’m a fan of Science Fiction, and I’m sticking with that.
Adrift in space, a gigantic freighter, Cradle, carrying seventeen million souls makes its slow journey across the universe.
They are in search of a new home, a ‘Goldilocks’ planet to sustain human life after the decimation and downfall of planet Earth.
One man, a control room tech, is part of a generation destined to live their lives protecting those of the sleeping millions onboard Cradle.
But soon, everything is about to change…
When Cradle encounters five unknown entities flying just beyond its radars, the ship’s AI calls for caution. Comms go down across the gargantuan ship, cutting the tech from the millions of other souls under his watch.
Those in cryosleep don’t realise the danger they are in. Their lives are in the balance.
And the alien ships are fast approaching…
Now this lonely technician must make his decision: will he stand his ground, and risk the lives of millions?
Or is it time to admit that humanity has strayed too far into the unknown?
Mankind’s fate is in his hands. Soon, the consequences of his actions and the message he bears will be felt for generations to come…
‘Rime’ is a SF retelling of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Ancient Mariner’, and while I must confess that I haven’t read that Classic, I’m confident in saying that ‘Rime’ can stand alone and proud among the future Classics of Science Fiction, and also among all that has come before. For such a short tale (around an hour and half’s reading, I’d estimate), this story has wonderful depth.
‘Rime’ centres on a technician aboard what we would know as an ark-ship, called Cradle. Cradle has been travelling away from Earth for centuries with a cargo of millions of humans in cryo-stasis; the generations of various technicians living on Cradle have the envious job of making sure that the vast ship runs properly. Something happens, at once wonderful and terrible, which none of the technicians, nor the ship’s governing Artificial Intelligence (also named Cradle), could have predicted – contact with intelligent aliens, and the technician is drawn into the centre of events which will affect not only Cradle but humanity as a whole.
Now, remembering that Cradle is an Ark-type ship, or Colony Ship, Tim does an excellent job of conveying not only the ship’s size but also how all the myriad technicians fit into the running of it. The technicians also have their own culture, dependent on their specific jobs on the ship and who they come into contact with. Some technicians have no religious beliefs, few manage to explore Cradle in its entirety, and social circles are small.
There’s a sense of almost desperate isolation in the characters we meet which deepens as Tim tells the tale from two points in time – pre-Contact and post-Contact – I was kept wondering about what had happened aboard Cradle and just where the technician had ended up, what had happened to so psychologically affect him, and the fate of Cradle and its passengers, both in cryo-stasis and tending the great ship. Tim steadily unfurls the tale, like a solar sail being released by its parent craft, early on already, and by the time the ‘sail’ is fully extended and begins to catch the solar wind, the book is impossible to put down.
For those seeking action and battles, this might not be the kind of book you’re expecting. Though it is proudly and wonderfully grounded in the core of what good SF should be -that sense of wonder and mystery, of exploration and consequence- it is a tale that also explores what it means to be human, to react emotionally, to grieve, and to be at once at part of something massive yet also supremely isolated.
‘Rime’ is damned well crafted, beautifully and painfully told, and a welcome addition to Science Fiction – won’t be surprised at all if this becomes a future SF Classic.
Until next time,