At just under 200 pages, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s latest novella is a masterclass in concise storytelling. Set in a future that doesn’t seem too far from the impossible and uncomfortably close to the probable, Earth is now almost uninhabitable. The ambient temperature has risen to such a degree that it is too hot for anyone to survive outside unaided. Humanity is a shell of its former self, with the rich and powerful having escaped to the stars, those left behind are now struggling.
In order for the ruling classes to hold onto their power, they need… power, so when there is a shortage, they recruit the titular Firewalkers to go out onto the scorched earth to find and repair what went wrong.
The book whips along at a rapid pace. Characters are cleverly rendered with a comfortable level of stereotyping and just enough mystery to keep you invested. Scene setting is similarly sparse and yet you can connect even the faintest dots to paint the picture Tchaikovsky has mapped out.
Like a standalone episode of Star Trek, you find yourself instantly transported to an unrecognisable planet where you tag along on an unexpected adventure to save a group of characters that had no idea they needed saving.
Firewalkers is a fantastically easy read, Tchaikovsky showcases his gift for storytelling by deftly touching on almost every staple theme of sci-fi without the book ever feeling heavy-duty. But though the world and characters are fully rounded out, they never really connect on a level that makes you sad to leave them as you close the last page.
Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky is available now from Solaris.