This review was first published by Booklist on March 3, 2016.
Steele’s latest is many things: it’s a love letter to science fiction and the history of the genre, with cameos from many great writers and scenes set at several memorable historical events. It presents an original solution to a fundamental challenge of colonizing other star systems using ships that travel at sub–light speeds. It envisions a fascinating future for humanity in the galaxy, focused on the legacy of one particular family. But what makes Arkwright unique is that this isn’t a story about a colony ship traveling to a distant world. Rather, it’s the story of how such a ship gets built and launched in modern times. This novel fits well with Steele’s fascination with large-scale construction and engineering projects. It’s different from much of his other work in that it takes place predominantly on earth and a portion of it focuses on past history. Steele doesn’t manage to create a perfect marriage between all these threads, but his vision is engrossing, nonetheless.