Book review: Acadie, by Dave Hutchinson

25 11 2017

Dave Hutchinson is a British SF author. His novel Europe at Midnight won the BSFA Best Novel Award. He has also received nominations for the John W Campbell, Arthur C Clarke, Locus, and Kitschies awards.

Acadie

Acadie is a novella-length space opera dealing with the crisis faced by John Wayne ‘Duke’ Faraday when an unmanned probe makes an incursion into the rubble-filled solar system settled by The Colony, an anarchic consortium of fugitive geniuses and bodymorphs. Earth’s ruthless Bureau of Colonization has been scouring the Galaxy’s systems for centuries in their hunt for the colony founded by genehack pioneer Isabel Potter, and it looks as though they may have struck paydirt just months into Faraday’s unasked four-year stint as Colony president. Confronted with an ominous but nebulous threat—the infiltrating probe was destroyed by a trigger-happy miner who chanced upon it deep within the system’s outer reaches, and there is no way of knowing whether it signalled its discovery to Earth before its incapacitation—Duke must decide whether the widely-dispersed settlement he heads up should prepare for combat against a foe of unguessed firepower, or should flee to the seclusion of a far-distant system while the opportunity still exists.

This is a fast-paced little story that builds to an intriguing scenario. The characterisation is tidy and effective enough; the levity in descriptions or in social interaction hits a couple of flat notes, though overall it probably boosts the story somewhat. All up, it deploys reasonably familiar SF furniture in a story which ultimately, despite a somewhat by-the-numbers premise, is by the close both entertaining and thought-provoking.

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