Book Title: By Light Alone
Author: Adam Roberts
Publisher: Gollancz 2012
Page Count: 407
Genre: Futuristic/Science - Fiction
Audience: Adults, maybe teens..
Summed up in one word: Extravagant!
First Impression: I enjoyed other Adam Roberts books and so I went into this book with high hopes, this may be why I was left feeling a little disappointed. I am not going to say this is not a good book, it was just not my cup of tea. Plot heavy and very little action or suspense made me feel disappointed.
Summary of the Book:
By Light Alone is set in a world where hunger is no longer a pressing matter, humans have the ability to get sustenance from the rays of the sun through their hair. The rich are the only humans left that get a taste of the real deal, food is a luxury only the powerful can obtain and this creates an even bigger rift between the upper and lower classes.
George, Marie, Leah and Ezra come under the category of filthy rich and they flaunt their wealth, eating, drinking and ignoring the poverty and the revolution that its soon going to spring up soon. The poor maybe weak, but there are many of them and they though they have all the food they need they are still hungry for a taste of a better quality of life.
George and Marie's life change when while on holiday their eldest daughter Leah is kidnapped. Without a ransom or any demands of any kind the family is left with no option but to believe their 'beloved' daughter is gone for good. George does not accept this and spends the better part of a year trying to get his daughter back. With the help of some professionals he tracks down his daughter and brings her home. Things aren't the same but the family believe this maybe the trauma Leah has been through, but is it something else?
From George, Leah and Marie's perspective we get to experience this new world that Adam Roberts has created, the rich carrying on with their heads in the sand and the poor getting to a new level of poverty. Experience George's transformation from well off naive idiot to the man on the street who loves his daughter and wants to help the revolution. Experience Marie's delusional view on herself and the world her family lives in. Also experience Leah's journey from hell all the way back to her fathers arms.
By Light Alone is definitely an adventure. The book covers a multitude of difficult themes and Adam Roberts did a great job putting it all on the page. The third person perspective was the best choice, the setting is vivid, disturbing and very realistic. (I could see us inventing technology to help us feed from the sun sometime in our future.) Adam Roberts puts all his focus and energy on the characters in this story, everything is experienced through their thoughts and opinions. This approach would have been very enjoyable had I not had a lot of disdain for nearly all the characters in this piece of work.
George is up first, he is a rich idiot who sleeps around in front of his wife's face and is naive beyond belief. Across the span of the first half of this story he is transformed from a bumbling fool into a street wise man who wants revolution. This transformation is well written but I found myself annoyed and upset by his thoughts and actions for a good chunk of the book. George is a saint compared to Marie. Marie is a delusional rich lady who spends her days looking down on her husband, complaining about the help, ignoring her children and taking credit for other peoples ideas.
Leah story is the better part of this tale and it occupies the second half of this novel. Leah's kidnapping, her time away and her eventual return is tragic, stressful and doesn't quite add up, but this all changes when a mysterious character called Issa turns up looking to get back to her old home of New York City. I did enjoy the time spent with Leah, her part in this story was the most honest and it mapped out the reality of what the rich want to ignore. Leah experiences poverty, abuse, revolution and violence but she is the eventual hero of this tale.
I spent the time reading this book frustrated as there was very little momentum and AR spends 3/4 of the book building this tale, then drops everything to start almost afresh with Issa. That made it feel like I had started a completely new book and the past characters plot points were left almost completely unresolved, there maybe a sequel but I didn't see enough sotry left to really carry it on. With sporadic action and almost no suspense I didn't feel that the characters alone could really carry this book.
As I didn't really enjoy much of this book I will focus on what I found good. George's transformation was interesting. Both parts of Leah's story kept me reading and I kept going to until a semi-satisfying conclusion. I wouldn't recommend to many people unless you prefer heavy story and difficult characters, though that does add some appeal to this book, enjoying the demise of smug people.
I was disappointed by this novel. but I know Adam Roberts is a great writer so I will happily return to his work. By Light Alone maybe hard to chew but it will appeal to many readers, just not myself.
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