Silversands by Gareth L Powell

In an age where interstellar travel is dangerous and unpredictable, and no-one knows exactly where they’ll end up, Avril Bradley is a Communications officer onboard a ship sent to re-contact as many of these lost souls as possible.

But a mysterious explosion strands her in a world of political intrigue, espionage and subterfuge; a world of retired cops, digital ghosts and corporate assassins who fight for possession of computer data that had lain undisturbed for almost a century. . .

This is the debut novel from the critically-acclaimed author of the short story collection The Last Reef, Gareth L Powell, with stunning cover artwork by Vincent Chong.

silversandsSilversands is by Gareth L Powell and it instantly piqued my interest when I heard about it earlier this year. As it’s only a short novel (coming in at 160 pages) it was one that I picked up once I’d received the review copy to pass a couple of hours one afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed what I read and found that despite the small page count Gareth L Powell has delivered a great novel in a very interesting setting.

Starflight has been achieved by the use of ancient alien wormhole devices that has no way to control the destination, and human colonies are spread throughout the galaxy because of this. Avril Bradley is part of the crew of the Pathfinder, a ship sent out from Earth to find these lost human colonies. But she has an ulterior motive: she’s trying to find the man she believes to be her father. As the Pathfinder arrives in the Silversands star system she discovers that this is the place she’s been looking for and now has the hope of finally tracking down the man she’s after, Cale Christie. When an explosion damages their ship the crew of the Pathfinder find themselves stuck while they must make repairs and it gives Avril the opportunity she needs. She finds herself in the middle of political struggles and the quest of secret factions to uncover the past while looking for the answers she wants.

The main characters of Avril and Cale are the ones that the story follows and their individual circumstances make for some very interesting situations. They’re both believable and realistic and the same could be said for the supporting characters too. With subjects such as colony ships, digital personalities and political intrigue, Silversands is a satisfying and enjoyable read and Gareth L Powell makes the most of these characters and backdrop to tell a page turning story.

However, despite how much I enjoyed Silversands there were a couple of small reservations I had. The first was that while the story flies along at a good pace, it sometimes suffers for not being a little more drawn out. There are lots of things going on and a little more time spent on the story would have benefited enormously – I could easily see this being expanded to full novel length. The other aspect is to do with the way that ftl travel is done – it feels rather like Stargate to an extent. You know, ancient devices that use wormholes to travel between stars. This becomes more apparent by the conclusion, but it does not detract in anyway from the story as it’s different enough to be satisfying.

Silversands is a novel I would recommend as a quick, enjoyable read and I’ll be keeping my eyes out for more work by Mr Powell.

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