Book review: The Queen of Sidonia by Richard Fox

This one was from the ‘random grab and read a few pages’ list. I’ve got a lot of these books sitting in what I laughingly call a ‘short queue’, and a lot of them stay there for years. Every so often, I’ll pick one out, read a few pages, and if I carry on reading then we have a … Oh my god … is that … a slush pile?

Queen of Sidonia was up next, and after page ten, I realised it was the just kind of book I was in the mood for: an unpretentious middleweight sci-fi story with plenty of action and a nice tidy ending.

And it wasn’t advertising itself as anything else. I mean, the cover is basically telling you this isn’t Shakespeare, but you’ll have a damn good time all the same.

And yes, I really did enjoy it. The story is nothing that you haven’t seen before, and the characters will be exactly who you expect them to be: we’ve got an idealistic, straight-laced hero; a feisty princess; a ruthless villain and a fop. Still, they all have their quirks so you’ll have no difficulty remembering who’s doing what to who, and the dialogue is distinctive and punchy. Fox doesn’t waste time having his characters chatting about stuff you don’t need to know.

But back to the story. Yes, it’s nothing too original, but as I’m always saying, it’s not what you tell, it’s how you tell it, and this is told with flair, humour and without wasting a single word. The world-building is one of the best I’ve ever come acros, weaving the structure and politics of the future civilization into the story with leaving a seam. Great stuff. The plot thunders along without straining the reader too much, building to a climax that is perhaps a little too predictable aside from one nice touch which, if I’m honest, I didn’t see coming.

So, after taxing myself with something a bit more heavyweight (and probably far less fun), I’ll be back for the sequel: The King of Sidonia.

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