Yolande Kleinn’s Open Skies, published March 2016, is an enjoyable space novella giving us a glimpse of a galactic civilisation in which many spacefaring species coexist, for the most part peacefully but echoes of a great war can still be heard. The story takes us to terraformed planets and space stations and domed habitats, travelling in severely cramped conditions, much as the poorest passengers in the transatlantic liners must have done a century ago.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t really show us the magnificence of space. The picture painted is a dull and often claustrophobic one. We don’t get to see stars and planets and space stations out of the windows of the starships. At one point, we see the curves of what is presumably a rotating wheel space station (I’m a big fan of those) but don’t get to go ‘Wow!’ at the sight of fields and forests (if any).
Maybe it’s a deliberate comment on the way air travel on our present-day Earth has lost almost all excitement, becoming merely a logistics exercise, a sardine’s trip through a processing plant – but where’s the fun in that.
The writing is good, but it’s a strange concept for a book: it’s a private detective story, a science fiction story, and a romance/aromance all rolled into one. I’m not one to complain about mixing genres, but I find it a little distracting to read science fiction where the two main characters are often more focussed on each other than the main plot.
By and large it works. I just wish Ilsa had more emotional colour. The only emotions we’re shown are her concerns and feelings for Kai. Otherwise, like the universe she inhabits, there may be joyful colours there, but the reader never gets to see them.