Review: The Wayward Astronomer by Geoffrey Thomas

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Hal Adhil and Miri Rodgers are best friends. They spend their days working at a small observatory in the Starfall Mountains beyond the metropolis of Anduruna. Miri is the only person Hal trusts to understand a dangerous secret: Hal can see all wavelengths of light. Hal uses his superpower only when they are free from prying eyes that could report them to the authorities.

 

The lives of Hal and Miri quickly change one night, however, when a meteor crashes into the nearby mountains. When they set out to retrieve the fallen star, it quickly becomes apparent that things are not what they seem. What appeared to be an ordinary meteor is in fact a strange power source that Hal and Miri are not the only ones looking for. In order to rescue his closest companion, Hal must not only unravel a mystery that has eluded his people for ages, but also face unsavory characters from his own past. Can Hal, the Wayward Astronomer, harness his supernatural powers to rescue his friend before time runs out?

 

 

***Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review.***

 

What’s Good: The premise is cool- denizens suddenly developing powers and abilities far beyond those of their fellow… men, and how to keep anyone from finding out because the government isn’t too happy about all these paranormals suddenly popping up all over the place. The metaphor/allegory is clear, and made for an interesting dynamic.

 

Hal’s power is relatively benign but still useful, especially in his line of work, and its enhancements later in the story are key. Thomas’ writing style picks up as the story progresses, getting tighter and crisper as the story speeds up. The story itself is both noir-ish and naive, wholly character-driven, which I like. The protagonist, Hal, finds himself way in over his head early on and the quest for answers takes him to places he never could have forseen, both physically and personally.

 

What’s Bad: From the position of this being a SF story about an alien culture, it’s not. As stated in the preface, it’s an alternate reality to ours filled with anthropomorphs- funny animals. It’s like a PG-13 version of Zootopia. No hint of anything resembling alien culture, customs, language, etc- characters with names like Marcus, Hal and Jonny who say things like ‘aiight, bro’ aren’t aliens. Period. You’re only reminded that they’re not human when their physical traits are mentioned and by the illustrations at the end & beginning of each chapter. Otherwise you’d never know the difference.

 

Dialogue and writing were kinda stilted- never really getting into a flow- with lots of overexposition and Telling, not Showing. It improved as it went along, but could’ve used another editorial pass.

 

The worldbuilding also lacked from a standalone reading perspective. Being dropped into a new setting with no points of reference there were things I didn’t quite understand or pick up on and had to just roll with.

 

What’s Left: a character study with a few interesting themes and allegories that picks up pace as it goes. Fans of the Dreamkeepers milieu should enjoy it; for the rest of us, so long as you’re aware of its failings, it’s a decent read.

 

3/5 stars.