The Recollection – Gareth L. Powell

The Recollection
The Recollection
Sci-fi is a tricky bugger. If you don’t draw your reader in early on, if you get too technical with mechanics of space flight, or if you ramble on with loquacious descriptions of ancient alien ruins when we just want to get the action, then you’re getting it wrong as far I’m concerned.

I’m therefore delighted to be able to report that with The Recollection, Gareth L. Powell has got it just right!

Beginning in a future not too distant from now – sometime around 2050 by my guess – the bulk of The Recollection follows two different sets of characters, born hundreds of years apart.


The first lot that we meet are the guys in the 2050 era, taxi driver and failed artist Ed Rico and his BBC journalist brother, Verne. The brothers have a bit of a bust up, which comes to a head with Ed on his knees, handcuffed with a police gun to his head, and Verne falling through a mysterious purple archway that chooses that very moment to materialize in London’s Chancery Lane underground station.

Fast forward by several hundred years and we meet our second protagonist, Katherine “Kat” Abdulov.

Kat is down on her luck and broke on the back-water planet of Tier’s Cross, struggling to find work to refuel her ship after having been cut off from the family bank account for consorting with a notorious rival trader. Her luck changes when she accepts a job ferrying passengers to her home world, where an emergency situation sees her accepted back into the family trading business on the condition that she beats her former lover to a crucial and lucrative trade contract.

The two stories unfold with Ed, along with the still-missing Verne’s wife, deciding to go look for his brother through the purple arch, and with Kat and her sassy ship Ameline racing towards the planet Djatt to beat her rival to the punch.

Their paths somehow become intertwined and merge into one in the best glorious tradition of Pulp Fiction, as the fate of our heroes and, indeed, the entire human race, balances on a knife edge.

The Recollection is a joy to read. Older readers who remember losing chunks of their lives to David Braben’s Elite and Frontier games will empathise with Kat Abdulov’s desire to be the adventurous lone trader, and I suspect Powell may have played an hour or two of Elite in his day. Even the description and cover picture of the Ameline reminded this reviewer of the much-loved Cobra MkIII.

Fans of Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War will enjoy The Recollection as well; although very different stories, there is a common theme: a female pilot expelled from her organisation under a cloud of controversy, forced to live the trader’s life on less-than-perfect, aging starship and reluctantly becoming a key figure in a galaxy-spanning conflict.

Where Elizabeth Moon managed a 5 novel saga with Vatta’s War, Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection is only one – so far. I genuinely hope to read more of Kat Abdulov and Ed Rico, as Powell has left many a question unanswered.

What happened to Kat’s infamous relative Sylvia Abdulov, who once owned the Ameline and disappeared without a trace? Will Napoleon Jones return from his last Random Jump (you’ll have to read it if want the context)? And if the arches were seeded on human habitable worlds, why were there some on Mars?

Those are just the questions I can ask without giving anything vital away. Let’s just say that there’s scope with The Recollection for at least another couple of novels – when it ended, it felt like the beginning of something epic.

Solaris Books are throwing a launch event for The Recollection on August 25th from 6pm – 7pm at the Forbidden Planet store on Clifton Heights, Bristol, BS8 1EJ; unfortunately I can’t make it along what with being based in Glasgow and all, but if you’re in the vicinity you definitely ought to get yourself along.

GEEKchocolate don’t do star ratings, but, if we did, The Recollection would get a stellar 5 out of 5.
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