Robert's Reviews > Journey Into Space

Journey Into Space by Toby Litt
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's review
Apr 14, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: sci-fi
Read from April 02 to 13, 2010

Toby Litt is one of my favourite authors, largely as a result of Corpsing - a crime novel I really, really enjoyed. His other novels are all different, but all interesting, even if they aren't always quite as delightful.

When I found out that he'd written a science fiction novel about a Journey into Space, I got quite excited. I like scifi/speculative fiction, and I was curious what this literary author might do with the idea.

Journey into Space is quite an experimental novel. Set aboard a ship that will take several lifetimes to reach its destination, with 100 human colonists on boarrd, none of whom have ever seen Earth, and none of whom will be alive when the ship reaches its destination, there is a lot of room for interesting, original, and quite dark writing.

We start with two teenagers and their game of imagining and describing Earth to each other. At first, it is alienating, but it becomes more powerful - and especially once they do single sentence descriptions, there is something poetic about it all. Over time, we follow them and several other generations until the ship arrives somewhere.

On some levels, I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if it never outlasted one generation. There are several big turning points (one of which is told in a ten page metaphor - highly experimental, but ultimately, deeply unsatisfying), several big characters, but the book never really feels consistent. There are big ironies in it, and a dark sense of humour, and bleakness, and humanity, but somehow, each time the plot accelerates by many years, it feels like a little human detail is lost. This is not, ultimately, a story of lost generations, but a story of progression up to a specific point. By giving us the global view, Litt takes away from his own premise, and gives us a pessimistic and unhappy, somewhat preachy novel.

I really wanted to like it, but ultimately, once the focus shifted to different characters, along with the time and the generations, the novel lost something, which it never recovered.
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