Toby Litt - Journey into Space (4 stars)

Toby Litt - Journey into Space

(Hamish Hamilton)


There’s a good track record of literary writers dabbling in science fiction, from Doris Lessing and Margaret Atwood to Iain Banks, and we can add to that fine company this remarkable and moving offering from Toby Litt. Having long been an experimental writer, Litt delivers something new and interesting with each book, and this tenth outing sees him taking a sci-fi staple and twisting it into startling new shapes. The action is set in the claustrophobic environs of a ship hurtling through space, away from a troubled Earth to settle on a distant planet. The journey will take hundreds of years, generations living and dying on board. It’s a fate most are resigned to, but not all, as the rebellious August and Celeste set in motion a chain of events that will determine the destinies of all on board. When catastrophic news is received from Earth, a decision has to be made, one which will seal the fate of humankind.

Dealing with big questions about morality, social responsibility, love and even the very nature and purpose of existence, Journey into Space is epic, stretching for generations, but with very human dilemmas at its pulsating heart. What does it mean to live and love? What kind of society could we have if we started again from scratch? Why even bother to go on? There’s a lot of existential soul-searching here, but much satirical fun too, and it’s ultimately an incredibly effective and affecting piece of work.

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