Fiction Reviews

Braking Day

(2022) Adam Oyebanji, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, hrdbk, 361pp, ISBN 978-1-529-41711-1


Braking Day is a colony spaceship story. Interstellar vehicle Archimedes and its two sister ships have been hurtling through space for more than five generations, but as the story begins the ageing starships are preparing to brake, for it is arriving at the Destination Star, Tau Ceti, the new home for the space-born descendants of the First Crew.

The story is focussed around trainee engineer Ravinder MacLeod. As Braking Day approaches, Ravi finds himself caught between the rigid requirements of the officer class to which he aspires and his blue-collar, ne’er-do-well family. Whilst determined to be a good crew member, and is an excellent student, Ravi struggles to make progress because his father was seen as a petty criminal and was recycled, leaving Ravi to face recrimination on an almost daily basis.

It also doesn’t help that Boz, his brilliantly tech-savvy ex-con cousin, seems determined to make his life difficult. She insists on sailing close to the edge of what is permissible and what is not – for example using her impressive tech skills to build a small robot to scoot around the ship – something forbidden on Archimedes. (Implants are OK but Artificial Intelligence not.)

What started as a bit of fun for both of them soon becomes more serious, though. Their surreptitious observations seem to uncover a secret plot onboard the spaceship.

At the same time, when Ravi is assigned to routine maintenance deep in the massive engines of the Archimedes where, alone and out of contact, he comes face to face with something impossible – the repeated sight of a girl that doesn’t look like anyone Ravi knows. At first Ravi thinks that the stress of approaching Braking Day is getting to him, but as time goes on the visions become more urgent and more serious. The reasons for these visions is revealed within the novel.

If this one sounds like a fairly old-fashioned SF tale, then you could be right. To begin with, Braking Day is a fairly traditional science fiction story, the basic outlines of which you may have read before. This shouldn’t put you off, though. Braking Day is a story told with conviction, with a narrative that feels appropriate.

The characters are very much Young Adult in nature, being generally defined without too much character detail. The setting initially invokes a sense of wonder that knowingly hearkens back to those stories by Heinlein, Greg Bear and Aldiss. It seems plausible and workable, and really felt like you were there. Unlike some of the characters in these older stories, the protagonists of this tale know they are on a spaceship. Some are not happy about it and seem to be wanting to stop the arrival. There is a protest group – the BonVoys – who seem to be more prevalent than of late, but is it right for them to be blamed for the things happening on the Archimedes?

The main characters generally seem likeable, and their charm does much to balance the development of the plot and the typical information-dumping that often happens in such a tale. This means that when the twist in the plot happens, it all appears plausible, although I suspect that the make or break point for many readers will be when we get the arrival of a genre cliché that seems to be more from the realms of Fantasy rather than Science Fiction. Nevertheless, the ending is satisfactory, with most elements being tied up, and there is scope for sequels should the author wish it.

As a debut this one was pleasing on the whole. I understand that this has been a labour of love for the author and it shows throughout. An engaging read.

Mark Yon


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