Genre : Science Fiction
Publisher : Angry Robot
Length : 400 pages
Format : eARC
Rating : 4 stars
Publication Date : February 11th 2020
ISBN : 0857668366
Before Hisako Saski is even born, her parents make a deal on her behalf. In exchange for a first-class education and a boost out of poverty, Hisako will marry Adem Sadiq, a maintenance engineer and self-styled musician who works the trade lanes aboard his family’s sub-light starship, the Hajj.
Hisako is not happy when she finds out about the plan. She has little interest in the broken branch of physics the deal requires her to study, and is not keen on the idea of giving up her home and everything she knows to marry a stranger.
Sparks fly when Adem and Hisako meet, but their personal issues are overshadowed by the discovery of long-held secrets and a chance at faster-than-light travel.
Set in a future where humankind left a dying Earth to reach the stars, The Light Years follows Hisako Saski and Adem Sadiq, two people forced to marry to fulfill the wishes of their respective families.
The Sadiq own The Haji, a sub-light ship used to carry goods between planet. While this ship is very valuable, it’s getting old and the family cannot afford to lose it. The captain has a plan to transform it by using the remains of a warship powered by a lost technology. To do so, she needs the help of a physic scientist well-versed in the subject.
Hasiko Saski’s parents decided she was going to marry into the Sadiq family before she was born. This alliance is the only way for her to have a good education and a relative peaceful life on Freedom, a planet that is slowly yet surely succumbing to a civil war.
Hisako learns about the arranged marriage as a child and she’s definitely not pleased about it. Especially because one of the requirements is that she must obtain a PhD in United America- a long lost civilization- physics.
I didn’t expect this book to be what it was. With the synopsis, I thought it was going to be a kind of enemies to lovers’ space romance with a bit of political maneuvering thrown into the mix. It wasn’t, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the story. On the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised to read a fascinating story following two protagonists trying to live their best life in a world that is falling apart.
The worldbuilding was wonderful. Basically, in this future, if you’re not wealthy enough, you cannot have children. If you still decide to have children, you have to either abandon them in the street, indenture yourself to buy the right to keep them or, legally bind them to a company or a family.
In the case of Hisako, a marriage contract was the only solution for her parents to provide her with a good life – food, a home outside of the refugee camp of Freedom and education. The only requirement of the contract was that she spent 2 years working on the ship.
This book follows each character and we get to see how they experience time and life very differently. The story starts with Adem visiting Freedom to sign the marriage contract when Hisako isn’t even born. He then returns on the Haji to continue his work on the trade ship. The Haji is traveling almost at the speed of light so while he is traveling from planet to planet, his relative time is not moving at the same rate as Hisako’s. Which means that for the first part of the book, we follow Hisako’s first 24 years of life, which represents only a couple of months for Adem.
It created a very interesting dynamic: the two characters have very different approaches to the arranged marriage and we get to see how they deal with it in their own way and for different lengths of time.
I also really enjoying discovering the reasons for this unlikely alliance and how business-like it was for Adem’s family. At the same time, I feel like I wanted the two characters to get along because I could feel like I knew them so well. However, I could definitely understand the frustration each party had for one another, especially when they first meet.
I just have to reiterate that this is not a romance story, I think the blurb is pretty misleading, it’s not lying per say but if you decided to pick up the book because of that, you might feel deprived from what you wanted. I didn’t mind because this book had a lot of elements that I found fascinating. It was however, definitely slow and character-driven. The plot is not groundbreaking and not a lot of things happen.
I didn’t find it boring at all because I had way too much fun learning about the world and the characters but I think it’s worth mentioning. For me, it shares a lot of similar traits to A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. To be honest, I actually liked this more than Chambers’s works because the structure and the themes explored in this book were more interesting to me.
If you are looking for a quiet science fiction story with two interesting characters who are just two good human beings trying their best, I would definitely recommend The Light Years. I hope Greene will write other books or stories set in this world because I will be reading them.