Review: The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt

“A ragtag crew of humans and posthumans discover alien technology that could change the fate of humanity… or awaken an ancient evil and destroy all life in the galaxy.

The shady crew of the White Raven run freight and salvage at the fringes of our solar system. They discover the wreck of a centuries-old exploration vessel floating light years away from its intended destination and revive its sole occupant, who wakes with news of First Alien Contact. When the crew break it to her that humanity has alien allies already, she reveals that these are very different extra-terrestrials… and the gifts they bestowed on her could kill all humanity, or take it out to the most distant stars.”

Thanks given to Netgalley and Angry Robot for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Tim Pratt is by no means a new author… he’s published over twenty novels and won a string of awards. But his sandbox of choice seems to have primarily been fantasy, with The Wrong Stars (The Axiom Series, Book 1) being his first foray into science-fiction. Either way, I’m new to Pratt’s work and picked up this novel for review because the cover looks amazing and the blurb screams epic adventure in space. I couldn’t resist.

First off, Pratt creates a world with all the scope and wonder you’d expect from a space opera, but with a gritty “lived-in” quality that makes the whole thing oddly plausible. In that sense, it reminded me of Star Wars or Firefly. Everything is well thought out, and Pratt creates that sense that we’re only scratching the surface which had me thinking about this novel well beyond the last page. Fans of “hard” sci-fi will find plenty to sink their teeth into here, but those elements don’t exclude the general reader (or one more accustomed to fantasy, like myself) – instead, it’s all woven into the story and cultures and characters until it all just fits.

And that’s one of the strengths of this novel: the story. It’s a fast-paced adventure with conspiracy and heist elements thrown in, and each chapter raises the stakes believably and drags you along, racing toward the conclusion with plenty of twists and turns. It’s a page-turner without feeling rushed at all. And the plot is resolved in a very satisfying way, but with a lot of set up for future books – with a grand story arc firmly established, it leaves plenty of scope for smaller, more contained adventures in this fascinating world.

Which leads on to the true backbone of The Wrong Stars. Pratt has created a living, breathing, truly memorable cast of characters to populate this story universe. The story is told through two point of view characters, Callie (the captain of the White Raven) and Elena (the revived crew-member of a wrecked exploration ship). Both characters bring interesting perspectives on the world and on the story, and their respective chapters are balanced perfectly. Add to that Callie’s crew who all bring something unique and interesting to the table, and the host of secondary characters we meet along the way, this is a story seething with life and characters who leap off the page. Plus, Pratt presents an intricate and compelling vision of post-human and “post-Earth” cultures which I can’t wait to revisit in a sequel.

If I had one complaint, and I use the term loosely, it would be that I felt too much focus was given to the central romance of the story at times. It remained believable, especially considering the circumstances, but I might have preferred to see the development it went through over two books perhaps. But that’s a very minor criticism, and more a personal preference.

Still, as you’ve probably gathered, The Wrong Stars gets five stars hands down. A blistering, imaginative javelin of a sci-fi novel which paves the way for even better sequels.

An incredible read.

You can learn more about Tim Pratt here, and The Wrong Stars is available from here.

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