‘Stealing Light’, G. Gibson

I recently finished Gary Gibson’s Shoal trilogy (or rather, series, for I hear there’s a fourth book around somewhere), and I enjoyed it very much. Yet, I have decided to comment on these individually as I can time-wise because I don’t feel that they are similar enough to warrant just one post.

The first book started slow: the flashbacks were an interesting way to bring forward an event the significance of which I could not understand until I experienced it through the words and images the author drew in my mind. It was an interesting concept, and I could not quite understand the horror and anger against mental implants until I read that chapter. It allowed for everything to make sense again. Imagine hearing the voice of God and then losing it. How could anyone cope?

What I liked very much in this installment was the way in which Dakota Merrick was manipulated by the infamous Shoal member, Trader-in-Faecal-Matter-of-Animals. What a name! Trader is also probably my favourite character of the entire trilogy: I just enjoy the way in which he speaks to humans, plus he is quite the manipulator of events. In addition, naturally, he is infallible.

“Mellifluous greetings.”

How can anyone top that?

Getting on to the other characters, I think that a part of what makes Mr Gibson’s first Shoal book so interesting is the conflict within Dakota. And the hatred that everyone else invariably directs towards her. The question in my mind is how would any of us cope in that situation? I think the moment in the very beginning where she contemplated suicide was quite instructive in that way — it gave us an insight into what she thought of herself.

I guess that times change and years can pass but those thoughts at least remained. And then Dakota notices the wake of destruction left in her path, and it is all there again. In the present and very much alive, those feelings from years past.

I’m not going to say anything else about the content to avoid spoilers for the people in whom I have managed to rouse some interest in, but I will point out that Mr Gibson’s world is quite unique. I always like seeing how sci-fi writers come up with new and innovative worlds that are pleasant to look at. In the Shoal, he has created a truly brilliant race as I see them. Aside from being extremely long lived fish, the thought of them ruling the galaxy could probably be called sobering. How can humans cope with not being the best? But then again, the Shoal really are not that impressive, are they? For that reason, for that insight, I quite enjoyed the moment where the author described a moment where a Shoal member thought of the destruction possible if the humans ever found out how much infighting and politicking there was inside the Shoal.

The first book then, as I look at it, is more about looking into oneself and judging oneself. Dakota tries her best, always; she doesn’t look for trouble — and yet trouble is there. And our heroine has to navigate that gauntlet of problems… If she does, the one sound that will be there at that moment will be the one saying:

“Mellifluous greetings.”

And the world continues.

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