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The Pillars of Dawn

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A light in the darkness...

Humanity is spreading throughout the cosmos. For an age, we have reveled in our ability to touch the stars. Now, we are breathing life into new worlds and calling them home.

On the planet Lumen, a once seemingly lifeless and frozen rock, generations have toiled at the Pillars of Dawn to make it habitable. As Lumen’s atmosphere nears stability, something dark stirs in the wild.

One night, a young couple from the colony Vale goes missing in the forest beyond the perimeter wall. The colonists embark upon a search and rescue operation, but they find the wild to be a much more alien and dangerous place than they could have ever imagined.

As Vale faces strife within its walls, the darkness outside the colony threatens the pillars. Something has come from deep within the planet, and it wants its world back.

738 pages, Kindle Edition

Published December 4, 2017

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About the author

Timothy Johnson

3 books12 followers
Timothy Johnson is a writer and editor living outside Washington, D.C., where he recently earned an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University. His published writing includes the novels The Pillars of Dawn and Carrier as well as short fiction from Gamut, Deracine Magazine, Crystal Lake Publishing, and Inked in Gray Press. He was editor-in-chief of phoebe journal, and in 2021, he was an Alan Cheuse Center Fellow and a Pushcart Award nominee for his story, “I Am Emergent.” He is a member of the Horror Writers Association. Nothing frightens him more than the future, so he writes about it in hopes he is wrong.

Timothy tells stories about love and the moral compromises people will make to preserve it, belief in the absence of reason, the nature of the conflict between environments and our species, the intersection of family and legacy, worldview divergence between generations, and the rise of demagoguery and authoritarianism in contemporary western politics and culture. People fascinate and confound him, so he writes stories in an effort to understand them. He also firmly believes storytelling should be fun and emotionally moving, that we should be able to connect with them on a deeply human level. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews
Profile Image for Nick DeWolf.
Author 4 books26 followers
April 10, 2019
Having read two books by Timothy Johnson, I've come to realize something - the story he tells is kind of irrelevant. This isn't to say that there is no story. Pillars of Dawn has a great story line, one you've heard, read, seen, and maybe even lived before. It's another great tale of people who have taken their lives to a harsh environment, thought they tamed it, only to find that nature itself is going to fight back against them. It's an ageless story, and could be transplanted to anywhere, any time, with anyone. It could be in the old west, in ancient China, on the moon. It could be filled with no humans and instead hyper-intelligent bunnies. None of those things are important in a Timothy Johnson book.
What's important, is the characters.
And good lord, does he get them right.
His previous book, Carrier, was an amazing example of world building. The greats in science fiction do this, present a reality so defined, so clear, so precise and down to the detail that the reader can see, smell, taste whatever's going on. It's a talent which not many writers have, and Carrier showed it off in spades.
Pillars does the same thing... but not. See, it's world building, but the world Johnson builds is not the homes or the town or the surrounding landscapes (though he does this all very well), it's the people. They're real. They're so real that you want to reach through the page and hug them when things are bad, or slap them when they're being awful.
This book shouldn't be called Pillars of Dawn, it should be called, Meet the Aroksons (the last name of the main family). Because you do, you meet them, you get to know them, you see the world through their eyes, and you watch everything fall apart around them and beg and hope and plead that they all turn out all right.
Johnson doesn't relent when it comes to the humanity he puts into the book. Each character has a solid arc, and each arc has at least one terrible decision that must be made. Some of the characters make good ones, and some make bad. And that's great, that he lets them make bad decisions. So many writers are scared to do this, to let their characters be broken, be faulty. But not Johnson. And when they do screw up, the consequences can be disastrous. It's heart wrenching to watch someone who you are sure is going to be the victor, the leader, the hero, begin to falter and realize, 'my god, they may not make it.' That sense is real, and it's throughout the book.
There are characters from all walks of life here, farmers and engineers, mothers and fathers, strong and weak, soldiers and cowards. There's something for every reader to find, to latch onto. And even with all those characters, the book does not feel overstuffed, it doesn't feel fake or forced. Johnson creates a place very real for the reader to visit, because places aren't made up of sights, they're made up of people.
And this book has some of the best, and some of the worst people you will ever have the pleasure of getting to know.
Profile Image for David.
11 reviews
December 10, 2017
Good science fiction sucks you into a story as it builds the world around you. With ‘Pillars’, you can’t help but become drawn to the imperiled inhabitants of Lumen, turning page after page, waiting to see what will spell their doom: the planet they’ve called home or themselves.

It’s a fun, fast read (because you can’t help yourself) and I highly recommend it.

December 9, 2017
This One Will Stop Your Breathing

The characters are real, the imagery made me believe I was there, and the story forced me to seek a panicked escape alongside Lucy, Lincoln, Ellis, Aeron, and the others. Now I have finished the story, so I can breathe again, but I might not sleep as soundly as before...
Profile Image for Ed Tinkertoy.
277 reviews4 followers
November 6, 2018
I hated this book/story. It had too many unknowns. The story does not give a year or star date so we do not know when it took place. The story does not tell when the colonist came to the planet Lumen, or how far it is from Earth. The story begins with the characters arguing with each other. The story refers to the area outside the city walls as the "wild" but does not describe what is out there. There is mention of cattle that the colonist keep but there is no explanation of how they got cattle to the planet from Earth. There is brief mention of a second settlement of colonist but very little interaction with them, not even good communication. When the colony is overrun at the end of the book there is no mention of what happened to the other settlement.

It is strange that a ship could come all the way from Earth but bring no vehicles or means of transportation, no all terrain vehicles, no airplanes or copters, or other flying machines. The only way to get around was to walk. The only mode of transportation is the train that runs from the settlement to the pillar. There is no mention of how many pillars there are and how they are terriforming the planet.

In the beginning of the book there are those who know about the terrible native species on the planet but they inexplicably keep it to themselves, its their secret. Even after the main character, Lincoln, is almost killed by the species he still keep it a secret from the rest of the people. Then we find out that those who brought the colonist to the planet knew about the native species but hid it from everyone. Even the end of the book when the survivors of the native species attacks get to the spaceship that brought them there there is not much explanation of how the ship could still be functional, only needing more water for propulsion. In the end they flew the ship into space but then the book did not say where they would be going. And then on top of that once the colonist got the ship going they found that there were thousands of other colonists on the ship is stasis.

I am just glad to be finished with the book. I would have quit it after about half way but wanted to see what the outcome would be.
Profile Image for Slade Grayson.
Author 4 books19 followers
December 14, 2017
I received an ARC of this book. I liked it so much, I wrote the following (part of which, the author graciously included as a blurb on the back cover):

“THE PILLARS OF DAWN takes everything you loved about ALIENS and FIREFLY, and weaves them together with morality questions about colonization and imperialism. Timothy Johnson is as adept at handling a sweeping story set on an alien world as he is at the quieter character moments. There's much at play here: a large, diverse cast; small town politics; dark secrets; big actions scenes; and horrific moments when no one is safe. Reading THE PILLARS OF DAWN is like watching a slow burning fuse traveling towards a planet-sized stick of dynamite.”

Folks, there are some books you pick up and read a page or two before going to sleep. There are some books you read on an airplane or waiting in an airport for your flight. Something easy to put down and pick up, with minimal characters and an uncomplicated plot.

This is not that book.

This is a book you immerse yourself in, sitting in your favorite chair on a rainy Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea or a glass of Scotch next to you. This is a book with a huge cast, lots of intersecting plotlines, and big ideas that make you think about morality and the human condition. It's also a book about humans fighting monsters.

How good is it? Even though I read an advanced e-copy, I still bought a physical copy that I intend to have the author sign and put up on my shelf with my other keepsake books. That good.
Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews

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