SFINCS Review: Dust and Lightning by Rebecca Crunden

Today’s review is about DUST AND LIGHTNING by Rebecca Crunden. It’s a standalone, science fiction novella that involves a rescue mission mystery set in the year 4054. People still live on a polluted Earth, by humans have long since expanded their range to other planets. But that doesn’t stop the government from getting up to shady activities.

SFINCS logoThis review is brought to you by my participation in the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS). SFINCS, pronounced “sphinx”, is a yearly competition to recognize, honor, and celebrate the talent and creativity present in the indie community. It’s a sister competition to both SPFBO and SPSFC, and it highlights greatness in the novella format in all areas of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc.). I am part of Team Behind the Musings. You can find out more about us here.

Author: Rebecca Crunden
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Self-Published
Publish Date: February 20, 2021
Print Length: 124
Purchase: Amazon

Official Synopsis

In the near future, humans have gone beyond simple space travel. By the year 4054, multiple solar systems are inhabited, and taking a spaceship is as commonplace as taking an aeroplane.

Unfortunately, not everything about the future is so advanced. The central planets, led by Earth, have risen high at the expense of cheap labour on distant worlds. Dissent is widespread and arrests are common. Sometimes prisoners are released; sometimes they disappear without a trace, sent to labour camps in other solar systems.

When Ames Emerys receives a letter telling him that his brother Callum has died en route to the remote planet of Kilnin, he takes the first ship he can off Earth, desperate for answers. But the secrets Ames uncovers prove far more dangerous than he could have imagined.

And trouble isn’t far behind.

My Review

DUST AND LIGHTNING is a science fiction rescue mystery set in the 41st century. People still live on Earth, but it has little resources left. Human civilization has already moved on to colonize other planets, from Mars to beyond. Ames, who is not keen on space travel, didn’t expect to jet off of Earth. But he receives a letter notifying him of his brother’s death and the facts don’t add up. Hindered by a suspicious restriction on his travel, Ames decides to push back against the thuggish government and leave Earth to find Callum.

First, I bet it’s quite tough to write decently fleshed-out story in just over 100 pages, but the author did just that! I really appreciated a full story arc, not to mention the set up of the human race in the future and the existence of space travel from planet to planet. This is definitely light sci-fi since there is little description of science or space technology. But there is good characterization of what drives Ames and an organic discovery through various interactions that those in power are up to no good.

While I thought Ames encountered less resistance than expected for a society with a lot of surveillance, there is still a scuffle here and there. However, I imagine that too much staunch resistance my slow down the plot development, which moves a long at a decent clip. Like THE STARS WITHIN, another SFINCS competitor, one theme in DUST AND LIGHTNING is the destruction of natural resources. Rather than fixing the problem, humans left Earth only to begin repeating the same behaviors that destroyed their home planet.

Another theme is that of “big, bad government,” which in this case leans toward the right. Crunden doesn’t delve too heavily into the politics, just enough to give the reader an idea of the current state of the human world. Because the government seems rather authoritarian, people are afraid to push back, which leads to another theme: resistance. Along the way Ames makes a friend who joins him on his quest to find his brother. They, along with Ames’s family, find themselves as the small start of a rebellion. The ending is rather open, which is not personally my jam. But it lets the reader imagine how the future might play out.

Overall, I definitely recommend DUST AND LIGHTNING to readers who want to dip their toe into the sci-fi genre. Of course, it’s also great for seasoned sci-fi readers and those who enjoy relatively light dystopian themes.

Rating: withheld
Content warnings: imprisonment, domestic abuse (implied), violence, non-consensual medical trials, death
Reading format: Kindle e-book

5 thoughts on “SFINCS Review: Dust and Lightning by Rebecca Crunden

  1. Lovely review, I would pick this up based on the pretty cover alone (I know, shallow) but I’m glad to hear the story worked too.

  2. I have this on my Kindle already and typically love Crunden’s work. So, I’ll definitely be giving this one a go at some point. Great review!

  3. Great review! This sounds so good and I’m adding it to my TBR right away. I think I’ve heard of this author before but I think this novella could be a good way to get a taste of Crunden’s writing 🙂

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