Finding new and exciting authors is one of the things I love most about reading. Often I’ll go into bookshops or browse online, and all I see are the same names with new books. When something new pops up – like Phoenicia’s Worlds by Ben Jeapes – my interest is always piqued, especially as new sci-fi authors seem to be much fewer than their fantasy counterparts. Picking up Phoenicia’s Worlds was a no-brainer, though what it delivered was so much more than I expected.
The premise for Phoenicia’s Worlds is fairly simple: when the wormhole is destroyed, La Nueva Temporada is cut of from Earth and they must send the Phoenicia back via slower than light travel to re-establish the connection. Easy, right? What could possibly go wrong?! Actually, probably not what you’re thinking. And despite this coming across as a fairly simple and straight-forward premise, there is so much more depth to the story.
Told in stages over decades, Phoenicia’s Worlds is the story of one family: the Mateo’s. Quin has the most focus, being born just as the wormhole collapses and never knowing of a world that doesn’t have to strive hard to survive in an increasingly hostile climate. The early chapters that look at his life up to his late teens are fascinating, and despite the jumps forward in time they read in a completely coherent and easily followed way. At no point do you have to stop and think, trying to figure out where you are or what has been happening. However, while I expected this to narrow the focus, it does nothing of the sort. We see how the population as a whole struggle, how political issues effect everything, how different views clash and bring about change on so many levels.
While the trials and tribulations on La Nueva Temporada are the main focus, the aspects that look at the other side – Earth and the re-establishment of the wormhole connection – are more set into the story than early events would have you believe. A lot of this comes into play later in the narrative, and it answers many questions that are asked in the opening chapters. It also shows how Earth’s society and governments have evolved, giving that depth and history without blatantly doing so.
The way that Jeapes presents his characters over a period of decades is masterfully done. Quin, in particular, is fascinating to read, seeing him grow and change over the period of the novel and understanding his motivations is an integral part of what makes Phoenicia’s Worlds such a success. And while he may take the spotlight, the secondary characters shine no less, each bringing something different to the table and giving the novel that special something to make it rise above the crowd.
Phoenicia’s Worlds is perhaps the best science fiction I’ve read in a long while. Not only does it present an interesting story, it does so with characters that bring it to life in many ways, and it doesn’t waste a page in the telling. There was nothing here that I didn’t enjoy and it ticked pretty much every box I could hope for. To say I recommend Phoenicia’s Worlds is an understatement: go read it!