The Wrong Stars is a space travel tale.

What sets apart a great science fiction novel from one that’s just so-so? By so-so, I mean a story that works reasonably well, smoothly moving from beginning to end and creating suspense along the way. But that so-so novel doesn’t stand out in any particular way — not by demonstrating exceptional creativity about the science on which it’s grounded, or in an elegant or especially engaging use of language, or in raising profound questions that resonate in our lives. And all that needs to be said about Tim Pratt’s novel, The Wrong Stars. The book, a tale of space travel, is good enough that I read it all the way to the end. But it’s not good enough that I’m likely to remember it a year, or even a month, from now.

The Wrong Stars (The Axiom #1) by Tim Pratt (2017) 400 pages @@@½ (3½ out of 5)

The Wrong Stars is set some five centuries ahead. Humankind has colonized twenty-nine solar systems but has encountered only one sentient alien race they call Liars. The word is an apt description, since the octopus-like beings lie so fluently and so consistently about almost everything. However, the Liars are a much older race and possess advanced technology that has helped humanity in myriad ways. Liars figure prominently in The Wrong Stars, one individual in particular.

A space travel tale set centuries in the future

But the book is mostly about the human crews of two spaceships. One is engaged in trade, security, and occasional salvage in trans-Neptunian space, the outermost region of human settlement in our own solar system. The other is a “goldilocks” ship that was one of innumerable probes sent to potentially habitable worlds five hundred years earlier, when it appeared that Earth would not much longer support life. The Wrong Stars is the story of their surprising encounter and their interaction with a godlike force set in motion by a race far more ancient than the Liars.

For further reading

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