Book Review

The Loneliness of Distant Beings – Kate Ling

“It’s that quick,
that strong,
that beautiful.
And it’s also
totally impossible”

A friend leant me ‘The Loneliness of Distant Beings’ by Kate Ling. Let me first tell you, it did not disappoint. 

Throughout this book we follow the main character, Seren. At seventeen years old she lives aboard a ship called the Ventura. Sailing through space on the eighty-fourth year of a seven-hundred year cycle from Earth to the planet Epsilon. Eighty-four years previous, eight-hundred and eighty-eight boarded the ship with the knowledge that they would never see Earth again. All because they received signs of potential life from the distant planet.

It being the eighty-fourth year of the cycle Seren, and nearly all of the population on board, never knew Earth. They will never see the planet the ship intends to reach. All they will ever know is the space ship upon which they live. Their sole purpose is to maintain the ship; have children; and pass on their knowledge to the future generations. All to ensure their decedents reach the planet Epsilon, then their decedents will tell the people of Earth their findings.

It’s sounds a little far fetched, these people gave up their lives, and essentially the lives of their future children and grandchildren, all in the name of science. Also the technology that must already be developed to even attempt such a mission, which is no doubt expensive and could be disastrous with so much potential for anomalies or unforeseen circumstances. I imagine it’s set in a future where Earth does have the technology readily available. 

Having said all of that, the books main focus isn’t necessarily the science itself, but instead those aboard the ship. 

There are a lot of words I could use to describe this book:

Love Triangle.
Star-crossed lovers.
Insta-love.

and

Stunningly beautiful.

These may seem like a contradiction. After-all if I saw those first three terms to describe a book, I’d run a mile in the other direction. They’re what I hate most when reading any novel however, these have a different take on the same tired tropes.

The first alarm bell: Love Triangle.

I hate Love Triangles with a passion. Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorn and Roses, even New Moon way back in the day. The love triangles not only bore me to tears, it comes to the point that upon seeing those parts I either have to skim them (in order to make it through the book) or put the book down entirely for a few minutes and wait for the frustration to pass.

However, in this scenario we’re introduced to a system where a partner is chosen for you by ‘Science’ therefore, in this case you don’t see one person with two conquests. Instead you see two people who want each other whilst they try to overcome the societal and systematic rules implemented on the Ventura.

Some may say: “That’s not a Love Triangle, that’s star-crossed lovers’, except that the characters are both betrothed, in a sense, to other people. So perhaps a ‘Love-quadruple’ would be a better term in this case?

However, they’d also be correct. 

Which brings me onto the second alarm bell: Star-crossed lovers. 

My experience with the above trope so far is mainly the “I would die for you” aspect, which I’m not keen on. Whereas, this book has more of an “I would live for you” vibe, which I think is so much more meaningful and a nice change of pace. 

Finally, the last alarm bell: Insta-Love

This is the only one that I find difficult to defend, except to say that the beginning of Serens relationship with Dom is probably more infatuation which develops over the course of the story however, it’s somewhat difficult to tell because the ‘infatuation’ and ‘love’ almost blend into one emotion. However, for this story I think it works within itself. 

In an environment where you’re told what to do, who to love, who’s children you’ll have no choice but to give birth to and which person, from the day of you’re graduation, you’re going to spend the rest of your life with – love is a foreign concept. Love doesn’t even exist, in the romantic sense of the word. So, perhaps when they experience it, tension is high and with the knowledge that it’s forbidden, it heightens their emotion all the more.

Or perhaps people really do fall for each other in such a small space of time, I’ve personally seen it happen with friends. So perhaps the great thing about this book is that, although it’s almost instant it’s still somewhat believable, even within a fictional world. 

Further Thoughts

I do wish it had more of a focus on the science fiction elements. It definitely feels like a Romance disguised in a Sci-Fi wig. That being said, I did thoroughly enjoy it from start to finish. Seren was an interesting character to follow, although she has her flaws she is likeable and you can usually see why she takes each course of action. Some actions were somewhat predictable but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the story as a whole.

I’m curious as to whether Kate Ling will write another book based on when the ship reaches the planet Epsilon and what they would find. Kate Ling built up an interesting world and I want to learn more.

All in all, from the description of the planets, sailing through the stars; the way the writing flows like a river gently nudging you forwards, plus the depth in which we get to know each of the characters individually. It was a fantastic journey.

With that, I refer back to my original statement: Stunning, and breathtakingly beautiful. 



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