At the recent Books With a Bite Blogger Evening a number of intriguing and exciting new titles were presented and the one that stood out to me the most from the piles of glorious proofs we were allowed to dive into was The Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling. And when later on in the evening I had the privilege to chat to the author and her editor about the book and the story behind it I was even more interested, and so I bumped this sci-fi romance straight to the top of my to-read pile.
Seren is part of a several hundred year long mission through space and as one of the middle generations she has never seen earth nor will she see the planet they're heading for. She, her parents and her future children are there to serve the mission and pilot the ship towards its final destination without getting any of the glory for the mindless work they are forced to do their entire lives for the greater good.
It's a pretty meaningless existence and anything that could make life worthwhile, such as love and family, is regulated so the people on the ship are not even able to marry those they might want to or even have any control over the growth of their family. Upon a generation's graduation they are each assigned their life partner, and the bearing of children is strictly limited and created in a lab.
It's a life of duty rather than enjoyment and already forced to be stuck inside the ship from birth to death, never having the chance to run along a beach and feeling the sunshine on her skin, Seren is determined to not have her entire life be decided by regulation and protocol and she falls in love with a boy who is not her assigned partner. But confined in such a small space it's impossible to have secrets and Seren and Dom are soon found out by those in charge. Are they really willing to risk everything, even life itself, just for a change to feel something?
The Loneliness of Distant Beings had a chilling concept at its core and the bleakness of Seren's existence, as well as the mindless willingness with which the people on the ship accepted this despondent life, created a haunting backdrop for this novel. In a mission lasting hundreds of years there was bound to be some sort of rebellion and it was interesting to see this blossom within Seren. First the awareness that their existence is basically pointless and next actively taking a stance that goes against the status quo.
The people surrounding Seren all had a role to play in the story and I really liked how they developed slowly but surely throughout, especially Seren's assigned life partner, her best friend and a girl who becomes a very close friend. I didn't like the turn in some of these character's personalities but they made sense and were necessary to drive the plot forward. Their developments were realistic, created conflict in what could otherwise descend in too much of an angsty teen read (even in space), and ultimately is what elevated this novel from a mere sci-fi romance to a proper great story.
The main romance was a little too instalove for my liking, but I was endlessly fascinated by the characters' voyage through space and the utter desolation of their generation's mission, and that is what kept me hooked until the final page. Author Kate Ling did a fantastic job shaping a chilling concept into a beautifully haunting novel and I cannot wait to read more by her hand.
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
The Loneliness of Distant Beings is published by Little, Brown and you can buy the book from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.