Crash is a 2013 SF novel by Guy Haley. After a couple of well conceived extracts from fictional texts we are plunged into the aftermath of as big a crash as any reader could desire. Confusion reigns, but then who wouldn’t be discombobulated, finding oneself expelled from suspended animation amid the remains of a starship scattered across an alien world?
Haley flashbacks to explain how Dariusz Szczeciński and his fellow other passengers ended up in this mess. Dariusz is desperate to escape an Earth where everything is owned and controlled by an unassailable super rich elite. One of these entrepreneurs launches a programme to seed humanity across the galaxy via a multi-ship star fleet on a mission to colonise nearby star systems, but the ESS Adam Mickiewicz is separated from its companion ship and is forced to make desperate crash landing.
It is here that Crash takes a misstep. Combined with the title and the cover art, the first chapter suggests the novel is going to be as much about plunging financial markets as the aftermath of a starship disaster. However, this topical exploration of the market is never returned to again. Instead, the majority of the novel follows the survivors regrouping and taking the first tentative steps towards building a new society on a harsh but not uninhabitable (or uninhabited) world.
Real politick creeps in, factions form. There is militarism, exploration, exploitation, romance, violent conflict, hope and, this being a very English novel, weather. Bad weather. The new planet’s rotation is locked to that of its star, meaning that one side is always in sun, the other dark, with interesting and well extrapolated implications for climate and colonists. There is also the mystery of just what caused the titular catastrophe. And why.
Making the majority of the characters central European is one of the most interesting touches of the novel, though there is one Englishman crying out to be played by Jason Statham if ever a film were to be made. Indeed, the space hardware is excellent and Haley can plan and execute big hardware action set-pieces to shame modern Hollywood. I was reminded variously of The Andromeda Strain, Alien, Starship Troopers and even Prometheus. Crash is how the BBC’s Outcasts might have played had it been written by people who actually understood hard science fiction.
As Crash went on, I did begin to wonder if it was the first book in a series as there seemed too much to resolve in the number of pages remaining. Happily it doesn’t turn out to be the launch pad for an endless saga and there is a definitive and satisfying ending. Sequels are possible but not required. Crash is good, imaginative, heartland British hard SF with its politics realistically to the left. It is a book written by a writer who has grown up knowing, understanding and loving the genre. A constantly absorbing adventure, it is not a potential award winner or a book to change this or any other world, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining. A worthy addition to the Solaris Books catalogue.
a version of this review originally appeared in Vector