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Book Review

Book Cover

A Chain Across the Dawn


Author: Drew Williams
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
308 pages
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 1 4711 7118 5
Publication Date: 20 February 2020

The galaxy is in a state or permanent civil war. Against a background of the chaos the Pulse is causing, Esa and Jane search for gifted children who may be the key to stopping the spread of the Pulse. As the Pulse spreads out from its moment of detonation it covers planets, effectively making any technology more complicated than the steam engine cease to function. The pair travel to the war-torn planet of Kandriad to rescue a child, but they are not the only being hunting, and soon the pair turn from hunters to the hunted…

A Chain Across the Dawn (2020. 308 pages) is the second book in the space fantasy series, The Universe After. The novel is written by Drew Williams.

The first novel in the series, The Stars Now Unclaimed, was predominantly from Jane's point of view, as she searched for Esa. It has now been three years since the pair became a team, so this time the novel is from Esa’s point of view. One of the benefits of this is that the book can explore the experience of young Esa trying to work out who she is and who she wants to be.

With Esa’s gift being powerful telekinesis, she feels capable of looking after herself in a dangerous galaxy, but due to Jane's own traumatic experiences she is reluctant to put Esa in danger. In many ways, it’s a recognisable mother and daughter dynamic, where the mother is not ready to let the child take the risks that must be taken, and the child chomping at the bit to forge her own path and make her own decisions.

The story starts fast and brutal and the pace rarely lets up throughout, as they are confronted by a creature made up of pure energy, who has his own agenda for the gifted. It is obvious that the weapons and gifts which had allowed their previous victories are useless faced with an enemy they cannot defeat. Think of a threat on the level of the original Alien film.

Its not a rip off, but there are similarities between the Alien franchise and this story, but I guess if you pit your heroes against a seemingly unstoppable opponent then you're likely to end up with a story which is a series of rear-action battles as our heroes slowly learn about the threat and try and work out how you stop the unstoppable.

After rescuing Sho, a disabled boy who is a living battery, they are ruthlessly pursued. On the one hand the trio must stay alive, and as the story progresses, Esa and Jane hook up with old friends to try and work out who their pursuer is, but more importantly how he is able to negate the Pulse.

This is pure old style science fiction where the aim is to entertain. There is the underlying theme of identity, but for the most part this is a well-constructed romp, if anything I think it is a little better than the first book, and I look forward to reading the last in the series.

The book also contains the first two chapters of the next novel, The Firmament of the Flame.


Charles Packer

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