Factor Reviews: Roboteer by Alex Lamb

So often when you read a new hard SF book by a previously unpublished author it’s a disappointment, with predictable tropes and corny dialogue. Alex Lamb bucks this trend as hard as is physically possible. Roboteer is not just a brilliant first novel, it’s a brilliant novel full stop.

Set in the future when colonisation has occurred but the human race is clinging on and fighting amongst itself, the book stars Will, a man bred to interface with robots to ensure his home world of Galatea can survive the onslaught from its Earth-based enemies.

In this epic plot we encounter a dizzying array of worlds and environments, with Lamb beautifully depicting their appearance and mood. Every region encountered has its own unique sense, and you get a clear idea of how humanity’s fraught history has allowed each place to come to be.

The characters are excellently realised, with the neurodiverse, genetically enhanced Galateans in particular offering a wonderful variety of deeply explored personalities. No character feels underdeveloped, which is a particularly impressive feat given that some could have easily been made weak stereotypes.

There is also the matter of the space battles. They are truly awesome. Lamb is one of the best writers of combat I’ve ever encountered, depicting dogfights, mad scrambles for survival and moments of chilling tension wonderfully. If Roboteer is ever made into a movie, I expect his deftly written battle sequences to be faithfully recreated.

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Throughout the story, the book poses genuinely searching moral conundrums about the future of the human race, but in a way that adds to the mood and flow, rather than hitting you round the head with morality.

Simply put, Lamb is a brilliant writer: the dialogue and battles are excellently constructed, the book’s pace is spot on and there is never a sense that you know what is about to happen. It’s quite honestly an utter joy to read.

The world is also so brilliantly realised, rooted in logic and science. It’s fantastical without feeling absurd, and genuinely feels like a realistic portrayal of humanity’s future – should certain chains of events occur – albeit one that is fresh and devoid of the usual predictable notions.

Publisher Gollancz has already confirmed that Lamb will be publishing a sequel, and I’m delighted to hear it. This book doesn’t just deserve to be given a sequel; it deserves to be made into a cult classic. Expect far more to come from this brilliant new SF writer.

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