Publisher: Gollancz (Ebook – 29 June 2021)
Series: Arcana Imperii – Book One
Length: 568 pages
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
After already conquering the world of thrillers, historical fiction and fantasy fiction, bestselling author Miles Cameron presents his very first science fiction epic, the outstanding and brilliant Artifact Space.
Far in the future, humanity has spread out amongst the stars, expanding its influence and bringing trade and technology across multiple planets. The success of humanity’s current expansion can primarily be attributed to xenoglas, a strong and mysterious material that forms the basis for trade, construction, and the economy. Xenoglas is obtained from a mysterious alien race known as the Starfish, who can be found at the Trade Point, a massive structure at the edge of human space that only the most sophisticated and powerful ships are capable of reaching. Humanity has created the greatships, kilometre long ships with massive city-sized cargo holds, capable of transporting all manner of human goods the long distance between the greatest human orbital cities to Trade Point and bring back vast hauls of xenoglas.
Marca Nbaro has always dreamed about venturing into space aboard a greatship and escaping her harsh upbringing in the notorious Orphanage. However, after getting on the wrong side of the corrupt Dominus, Nbaro is forced to flee with few possessions, scandals dogging her step and an incomplete education. Pawning everything for some forged records, Nbaro boards the greatship Athens as a junior officer as it prepares to depart on the multi-year journey to Trade Point.
Despite being constantly terrified of her sordid past being discovered, Nbaro is soon able to gain friends and standing aboard the greatship, and for the first time ever her future looks bright. However, Nbaro’s dreams of mercantile success are soon blown out of the water when news of the destruction of two other greatships reaches the Athens. It soon becomes apparent that the Athens is also at risk of from whatever mysterious forces have suddenly appeared. Involuntarily brought into the midst of a dangerous conspiracy, Nbaro is recruited by Athens AI and the greatships’ security office to protect the ship. As Nbaro works to safeguard her new friends and home, she finds herself facing an insidious and dangerous enemy that is determined to stop the Athens and its crew by any means necessary. Can Nbaro and her friends protect the Athens as it makes a hurried journey towards the Trade Point, or will her first flight end in ruin and destruction?
Genuine question: is there any genre that Miles Cameron cannot write amazing novels in? Well, after reading Artifact Space, it looks like Cameron really can do it all, as his latest novel is an exceptional and captivating read. Cameron, who also writes as Christian Cameron and Gordon Kent (a joint pseudonym shared with his father Kenneth Cameron), is an author who I have been a fan of for a while. I deeply enjoyed some of the great historical fiction reads he released as Christian Cameron, such as Tyrant and Killer of Men, as well as his more recent release The New Achilles. I am also a major fan of the awesome fantasy novels he released as part of his Master and Mages series, including Cold Iron and Dark Forge. Both of these awesome novels were exceptional reads that got five-star reviews from me, with Dark Forge being one of the best books and audiobooks I enjoyed in 2019.
Due to how much I enjoyed his great fantasy and historical fiction novels, I was very intrigued when I saw that Cameron was writing Artifact Space, his debut science fiction novel set in his newly created Arcana Imperii universe. After featuring Artifact Space in a Waiting on Wednesday article, I was lucky enough to receive an advanced proof from Cameron, which I managed to read last week. I am a little annoyed with myself for taking so long to get to Artifact Space, as it turned out to be an exceptional and deeply compelling epic that takes its reader of an exciting adventure out into the depths of space. I had an amazing time reading Artifact Space and it is yet another of Cameron’s incredible novels to get a five-star rating from me.
Artifact Space contains a powerful and engrossing science fiction narrative that follows a complex and damaged protagonist as she engages in a dangerous and thrilling adventure out into the stars. Cameron starts his novel off without much preamble, with the protagonist engaging in a dangerous race to the Athens to escape her past. Once aboard, Nbaro becomes enfolded in the day-to-day life aboard the Athens, which swiftly teaches her, and by extension the reader, much about Cameron’s new setting. The first half of the novel is pretty intriguing, as Cameron not only sets up his fantastic protagonist, great supporting characters and fantastic universe, but he also features some compelling adventures in space as the protagonist finds her feet aboard the ship while also dealing with some lethal personal problems. While I really enjoyed this cool start to Artifact Space, the novel enters a completely new gear towards the second half of the book, especially after it becomes clear that a shadowy conspiracy has plans to destroy the Athens, with the protagonist stuck right in the middle of the key events. Following a particularly intense and exciting sequence near the middle of the book, the rest of Artifact Space flows across at an extremely brisk pace, as several key storylines are resolved, and the Athens finds itself under increased attack from a variety of places. All of this leads up to an impressive and captivating conclusion that sets up the following novel perfectly while keep the reader wanting more.
I really enjoyed the clever and powerful story that Cameron came up for Artifact Space. There is something deeply compelling about seeing a great character getting an in-depth lesson in something new and fantastic, and I loved all the cool sequences of spaceship life, piloting and control that formed a great part of this book. I am also a massive fan of how exciting and suspenseful the second half of the book turned out to be, as Cameron installs an excellent and thrilling storyline with plenty of threats, revelations and twists, which constantly leaves the reader on the edge of their seat. Cameron also features several intense and exciting action sequences both aboard the ship and out in space, all of which are fantastically written and deeply enhance the cool and compelling narrative. I quite liked how Cameron also adapted his writing style to suit the science fiction genre. While the author maintains his propensity to feature an immense amount of detail in his story, I found that the writing was a lot more fluid and a little less formal than how he writes his historical fiction and fantasy novels. I think this worked well for Artifact Space, as not only did it fit the futuristic setting a lot better, but it also ensured that the reader could get through the novel a little quicker. I had an amazing time getting through this incredible narrative and it honestly did not take me long to become completely engrossed in Artifact Space’s story. I absolutely flew through the second half of the narrative as I could not wait to see what obstacles the protagonist would experience next, as well as how the novel would end.
I was deeply impressed by the fantastic and impressive science fiction setting that was featured in this novel. Cameron has come up with a compelling and detailed universe for Artifact Space, and it was one that I had a lot of fun exploring. The story is set hundreds of years in the future and features a period of human exploration and expansion after a historic dark age which forced people to leave Earth. Much of humanity’s current economy and progress is due to its xenoglas trade with the Starfish, and much of the book’s plot revolves around this trade, featuring the greatships, the alien Trade Point and the various human planets that lie between the Trade Point and the human population centres. Each of these locations is very cool, and Cameron expertly brings them to life with his detailed and descriptive writing, which produces some excellent backdrops for the narrative. Cameron also spends a lot of time describing the fantastic setting that is the greatship itself. The greatship, an immense vessel filled with a unique collection of crew, cargo, rooms, and technology, all of which are needed to take the assembled characters from one end of the galaxy to the next. Most of the story is set aboard the greatship Athens, and it proves to be a fantastic setting to explore. Thanks to the author’s use of a new crewmember as the narrative’s point-of-view character, the reader is given an in-depth view of the ship and everything that makes it tick and it really will not take them long to fall in love with the Athens and all its unique features and quirks. I think that Cameron did an exceptional job introducing all the elements of this universe throughout Artifact Space, and I never found myself getting lost of confused about what was going on. There are so many exciting, fascinating, and clever universe details featured throughout this novel and I look forward to seeing how Cameron populates this universe in the future.
I also really enjoyed the great selection of characters. The most prominent of these is central protagonist and point-of-view character, Marca Nbaro, an orphan from a formerly wealthy family who cons her way aboard the Athens. Due to her hard early life at the Orphanage, a terrible state-run institution, Nbaro is an extremely damaged character. Forced to spend most of her life looking over her shoulder and expecting betrayal, Nbaro is unfamiliar with the easy camaraderie and friendship she experiences aboard the Athens and is generally suspicious of everyone she encounters. She is also terrified that the rest of the crew will find out about her forged grades, which would see her chucked off the ship, while also harbouring a low opinion about her own abilities and skills, believing that she did not really earn her place aboard the ship. This is a fantastic basis for a character, and I really appreciated the way in which Cameron examined the mentality and deeper concerns of his protagonist, especially as it ensures that you really care for Nbaro and want to see her succeed. I liked the way in which Nbaro grew as a character throughout the course of the novel, especially as she gains a sense of self-worth thanks to her natural abilities and the connections she forges. The character soon finds herself in a variety of unique and dangerous situations as she puts everything on the line to save her new friends and home, and it was great to see the character enter hero mode and succeed. I am really looking forward to seeing how Nbaro continues to develop in the next novel, as well as where her personal story ends up.
Cameron has also filled Artifact Space with a wide range of intriguing and likeable supporting characters who the protagonist engages with during her adventures. There is a fairly large collection of supporting characters in this book, especially as Nbaro makes friends and collections throughout the entire greatship and beyond. I had a lot of fun getting to know some of the characters throughout this novel, and I was a particular fan of the weird and brilliant Dorcas, Nbaro’s friendly roommate Thea, and the ship’s clever and sarcastic AI, Morosini. All these characters, and many more, added a lot to Artifact Space’s story, especially as most of them form a unique relationship or friendship with Nbaro. While a few interesting supporting characters don’t survive to the end of the novel, the remaining swath of fun characters should help to make the next entry in this series very special. I enjoyed seeing several of these characters develop alongside the protagonist, and they were great additions to this fantastic novel.
With Artifact Space, outstanding author Miles Cameron has shown the world that he is more than capable of writing science fiction, as he produces a compelling, character-driven epic, set deep in the future with aliens, giant spaceships and galaxy spanning conspiracies. This was an amazing and captivating read which quickly drags the reader in with its intense and exciting story and exceptional science fiction setting. I had an absolutely incredible time reading this impressive novel, and Artifact Space comes highly recommended to anyone who wants a great science fiction read. I cannot wait to see how this series continues in Cameron’s next book, but in the meantime I need to make tracks to finish his Master and Mages series, as I cannot get enough of Cameron’s incredible writing.