Book Review – Dust and Lightning

Dust and Lightning by Rebecca Crunden

This book was my first requested review by an author, and I would just like to say to Rebecca a big thank you for sending me a copy.

As with all of my reviews we have a couple of small spoilers, but I’ve not gone into anything that will ruin the story.

Novellas aren’t something I normally read, short stories and even collections tend to be something I refuse to go near, I think it’s the fact I hate the idea of getting drawn into a book that is going to leave me in 100 pages in (a strong abandonment issue vibe coming from this sentence). I will buy them very occasionally and normally only for the collector’s aspect and I should probably be a little ashamed of myself, I call myself a Cosmere fan and haven’t read any of the in between…

Rebecca described this book as a straight up 120-page science fiction adventure with no romance, this piqued my interest straight away, no romance means no big attachment and a ton scifi always has a fair bit of action which I do love, this was just going to be adventure and Rebecca wasn’t wrong. This book focuses on our main character Ames, a grizzled old-time thief trying to find his brother who’s been arrested and disappeared away by the corrupt DPA, the government in charge of the empire of earth that now extends way past our own milky way.

Unfortunately, not everything about the future is so advanced. The central planets, led by Earth, have risen high at the expense of cheap labour on distant worlds. Dissent is widespread and arrests are common. Sometimes prisoners are released; sometimes they disappear without a trace, sent to labour camps in other solar systems. When Ames Emerys receives a letter telling him that his brother Callum has died en route to the remote planet of Kilnin, he takes the first ship he can off Earth, desperate for answers. But the secrets Ames uncovers prove far more dangerous than he could have imagined.”

Dust and Lightning – Rebecca Crunden

I really liked the world building that we were introduced here and really hope Rebecca builds on this more with later books. We find ourselves on Earth in the 41st century, a capitalist empire that offers little in the way of workers rights, taking advantage of the little man and a truly corrupt society that benefits the rich before anyone else, sounds familiar? (The universe Rebecca has built, in my opinion, seems to be based on the great ole’ USA) I really liked the potical aspect of this book and how current those problems felt just added so much to the story, the ability to relate the books world against our own, and I think having a realistic look into the future is so important for scifi, when the story feels like it has the potential to be reality then that really grips you as a reader. I did find it funny, either it was my pessimism or the authors optimism, but the believe that we would still be around in another 2000 years if we continue on the current course we are taking is a crazy one, I hope by then its more of the peaceful utopia that we see in star trek maybe.

I found the first two thirds of the book very gripping, I thought as a newer author Rebecca did a great job of setting up her story, out of personal experience and my own writing that’s something to really struggle with, it was very easy to read and sucked you in straight away, the story was well told and made you want to turn the page and keep going. Ames was a fairly classic character, grizzled old timer doing his best to survive, I would love to know a bit more of his backstory and again hope this is something that’s maybe fleshed out in future books. I loved the snippets of his life we got, where the really hardcore love for his brother came from and his willingness to risk everything. Rebecca did an excellent job of making a character I wanted to read more about in very few words.  Violet was brought in roughly a third into the book and her introduction was great, I loved the potential for a sidekick(?) of sorts, Ames needed some balancing factor and someone to bounce off, and the fact I already knew there was zero romance in this which meant I didn’t have to worry about any potential awkward kisses, but I do think the relationship built between them was a great set up for romance in future stories. However, as we get into the latter part of the story, Violet’s character is something that made this story unravel slightly for me. Violet was a lawyer, a fairly average, everyday woman who Ames helps when he stumbles across her leaving her arsehole husband after a domestic issue (nothing strange with that – men are pricks). Ames isn’t some hero, hes just trying to do the decent thing and I like that this led to Violet deciding to stay and help Ames with his investigation. However, as we go on it goes quickly from our fairly innocent just-left-earth-for-the-first-time-lawyer to having her jump into a secret underground base, finding all the information they needed on the government computers in said top secret base, picking locks and then the thing that really bothered me was Violet straight up shooting a man.

“An exit at the end led to a stairwell and they nearly at the door when it burst opened. A shot went off and bloody sprayed across the wall behind the wall as he dropped to his knees. Violet’s hand was shaking, her eyes round. ‘Lets go.’ Ames had to force his voice to remain calm, but he somehow managed it. He nodded her on. ‘Down the stairs’.

Dust and Lightning – Rebecca Crunden

For me this was just something I couldn’t get over, this man walked through a door, stumbling upon our group, no standoff with the guard, no conversation, no begging for his life, no hesitation, no nothing. Violet immediately shoots him, and I just can’t see that being what happens from a person who has never killed before, its not something I have personal experience in (thankfully) and I get in real life fear is a major driving force but I imagine till that point Violet has never killed a man. We then have a second of remorse and then they carry on, it felt at this point the end game had been decided upon and what was happening was the easiest way to get there, Violet didn’t fit into the story anymore, but she was just being used to keep it going.

The final few pages before the ending were where we really saw this Sci-fi world start to take off, the change in tone was unexpected and sudden, it really was fun to read, who doesnt love the potential for a little super power action. I feel the place the story left on was a really great opener for Rebecca to then expand on this world and story and was a very solid cliffhanger that left you wanting more, I can see a grand space opera of sorts kicking off, rebellion from the outer planets fighting the tyranny of the corrupt government, Callum and Ames being the spark to set the fire of rebellion going. It has been done before but it’s always an exciting potential and so much can be done with it.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, even with a couple hiccups I can see a really bright potential for Rebecca’s writing and the story she’s started. I look forward to seeing what she comes out with in future and will definitely be adding it to my TBR pile when she does, and I wish her the best of luck with her dreams 😊.