GRADIENT by Anders  Cahill


Email this review


A space explorer—investigating a vanished expedition to colonize a faraway world—recalls an epic life filled with adventures, loss, and peril as he faces a potential reunion with a former love. 

Debut author Cahill spins a wide-roaming galactic tale with mythic overtones here. The novel’s first-person narrator is big, stout-hearted Oren Siris of a moon mining colony called Verygone. In spacegoing humanity’s far future (or remote past?), Oren belongs to the “Fellowship,” a vast unity of settled worlds—there’s no mention of intelligent alien life—ever pushing outward and exploring, much like the Star Trek franchise’s Federation. In trying to establish an outpost on the promising but remote world of Eaiph, a vanguard of “Architects” has seemingly disappeared— among them is Saiara Tumon Yta, a Fellowship ensign who was Oren’s great love. Because people can live millennia with advanced Fellowship technology and cryonic stasis, Oren hopes to reunite with Saiara, even after 627 years, as his own follow-up ship nears the planet. Meanwhile, the narrative recounts Oren’s earlier space exploits as a rookie cadet facing dangers and wonders, ranging from a derelict starship’s artificial intelligence (aka the “shipheart”) turning malignant to a rococo culture featuring a charming, penniless aristocrat leading visitors through a sort of carnival masquerade drawn from the dominant religion. At last on the semibarbaric Eaiph, Oren encounters old and new threats while trying to remain true to the Fellowship’s idealistic goals and his own dreams. The author’s rich vocabulary weaves spells with hard sci-fi threads blended neatly with loanwords and arcane and antique jargon (“amanuensis,” “pausha,” “biologician”). It is a mixture that sometimes touches the sublime in sci-fi lyricism: “We had reached Eaiph, one of the most fertile worlds ever discovered, a glassy blue cauldron of life, waiting for those to live it. In three more galactic weeks, the little waterstone would arrive to meet us on its passage around Soth Ra.” One can forgive Cahill’s springing the old Nightmare on Elm Street trick a few times too many, as tough spots and cliffhangers turn out to be dreams (yet sometimes, more than dreams). The manner in which the author resolves the strands should pinch the heartstrings of readers accustomed to programmed uplift.

A heroic cosmic odyssey that—for all the technology—remains textured with the stuff of legend, stirring and ultimately melancholy.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-973326-65-6
Page count: 490pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


by Kevin J. Anderson
Sci-FiSNARE by Katharine Kerr
by Katharine Kerr
Sci-FiCHINDI by Jack McDevitt
by Jack McDevitt