‘Footsteps in the Sky’ (6 out of 10) by Greg Keyes. Published by Open Road Media. Available 5/26/15.
Science fiction is a great medium for pulling in many different aspects of society and social structures. “Footsteps in the Sky” is a great example of this, utilizing the Hopi religion as an analog for space exploration. Unfortunately, that’s one of few great traits of the novel. Everything else just falls into the good but not outstanding category. And that’s okay. I’ve spent plenty of time with plenty of books that didn’t even fit into the good category, let alone great.
The basic premise is pretty boilerplate hard sci-fi with a few slight twists. Humanity has reached the stars and begun to colonize new worlds. Naturally, this is funded by mega-corporations. In a futuristic spin on history repeating itself, many of these worlds are colonized by subsets of humanity rather than large cross sections. The particular world in focus in this novel is, basically, a Hopi reservation. Even amongst the Hopi there is a rift. Some of the settlers are wishing to return to the old way of life, eschewing all technology and making a fresh world without the evils of the men they’ve left behind. Other factions have a more pessimistic expectation. They’re spending a couple generations terraforming the planet from barely survivable to actually livable. But they fully expect their parent corporation to show up once it’s a usable world and take it back. This faction is working the long game and preparing for war.
This accounts for three of the four parties involved: the corporation, the traditionals, and the… let’s call them rebels, though they aren’t the heroic type. The fourth faction is the alien race who already seeded this world for themselves centuries ago and are now coming back to check on the fruits of their farming. Throw in a bunch of spies, double-crossers, mercenaries, and greedy self-servers and you have all the makings of a plot – albeit one that’s way too late to use many of these tropes and still sound original.
If you’re a well-read science fiction fan you can probably start filling in the gaps here and you likely won’t be wrong. But if this much has your imagination going enough to do that, you might as well read it. It’s an enjoyable, if not remarkable, novel. Using the allegory of the Hopi religion was a strong start and is a theme I would like to have seen explored a little better. If you’re a voracious reader in need of some middle of the road sci-fi, this is as good place to go as any. If you’re limited on time and only read the best things available, go ahead and skip this one.
“Footsteps in the Sky” by Greg Keyes is available from Open Road Media today, 5/26/2015. You can get it Amazon Kindle here, or at your favorite book seller.