Source: Bought copy
Guy Haley is not an author I’ve read before but his latest novel Crash promised everything I wanted for a summer holiday read – adventure, disaster, spaceships, alien worlds and alien beasties, all with a healthy mix of dystopia, futuristic angst, semi-robots, honour, intrigue, decency, guilt, heroes, courage, horror and appallingly behaved rich people. Crash did not let me down. It delivered everything I wanted and more. Having picked this book up almost on a whim, I was then unable to put it down and I read it in a day. I loved it.
Set in the 22nd century, Earth has become vastly overcrowded with the majority of its inhabitants consigned to abject poverty and misery while the few – and it really is the very few – own all the wealth, making money from money, creating nothing of value, watching distantly, coldly. These are the Pointers. Now that life on Earth has become untenable, the Pointers have decided to do the only thing they can – abandon ship. Actually, they do the opposite. They have secretly built a fleet of starfaring vessels, targeted at new worlds to be colonised by their kind. Cassandra (or Sand), a supply pilot aboard the ESS Adam Mickiewicz, is our heroine and Dariusz, saboteur of the mission, becomes, whether he likes it or not, our hero.
Due to Dariusz’ actions, and to his utter horror, the Adam Mickiewicz is diverted from the fleet and crashes 900 years into the future on a planet that is locked in position. One half is perpetual night and the other is constant day. It is not uninhabited and its terrain, climate and nature do all they can to bring suffering and death to the survivors of the ship, scattered as they are across the planet, desperately clinging on to life, searching for each other.
In the second half of the novel, time has moved on and a community has formed out of the struggle, led by two Pointers, Leonid and Yuri, and their semi-robotic bodyguard, Anderson. It’s now that questions about the nature of society, community and government raise their head. Democracy and tyranny struggle for dominance, military might fights against pacifism, demonstrated most effectively in the conflict against the indigenous inhabitants of the planet. How is sentience measured? Is the extermination of a species ever justifiable? Have the lessons of Earth’s decline meant nothing? And will power always be held by the rich? Characters make surprising decisions. They alter under these circumstances. And all the time Dariusz is working to put right what he can never fix.
Crash is an engrossing read. After an intriguing lengthy opening on a transformed, greedy but poor Earth, we spend the rest of the novel on an alien world watching the characters come to terms with the violent crash, their isolated position (not to mention the very possible scenario that they are the sole survivors of the human race), while enduring conflict with one another and attack from whatever lurks out there in this hostile planet.
The crash scenes are horrifying and had me on the edge of my seat. We know why Dariusz did what he did but the stark reality of the disaster it created is shocking and this is something that Dariusz has to contend with while doing all he can to help those who made it survive. He is a likeable and interesting character. So too is Sand. She’s no-nonsense and tough, independent and quick. A born survivor. Just as well.
Above all else, Crash is a sensational adventure. But it is also clever, involving and full of ideas and imagination. The descriptions of the planet, the rich-poor divided Earth, the spaceship and the crash are colourful and vivid. I thoroughly enjoyed the contrast of scenes between those on the damaged Earth and those on this new world with its own divisions of night and day. From its excellent start, which grabs from the very first page, right though each of its phases of thrills, Guy Haley gives us a corking ride of a novel. I have now bought Champion of Mars and look forward to spending more time with this exciting writer.