Stealing Light (Shaol sequence 1) by Gary Gibson

Title: Stealing Light
Series: Shaol Sequence book 1
Author: Gary Gibson
Genre: Space Opera
Cover Art: Lee Gibbons
Paperback: 601 pages
Publisher: Tor UK 2007

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In the 25th century, only the Shaol possess the secret of faster-than-light travel (FTL), thus exerting an economic stranglehold on all interstellar travel. For a century and a half, mankind has operated within their influence, till now there are at least a dozen human colony worlds scattered along Shaol trade routes.

Dakota Merrick, while serving as a military pilot, has witnessed atrocities for which this alien race is responsible. Now piloting a civilian cargo ship, she is currently ferrying an exploration team to a star system containing a derelict starship. From its wreckage, her passengers hope to salvage a functioning FTL drive of mysteriously non-Shaol origin. But the Shaol are not yet ready to relinquish their monopoly of a technology they acquired through ancient genocide.


The online description of this paperback lists 400 pages but my book has 601 (Tor UK has 592), but I believe my own eyes the first page with story is page 3 and last page is 603.

This is a story about taking responsibility. The main character is Dakota and followed by Corso and the main antagonists are the Shaol Trader-In-Faecal-Matter-Of-Animals and the human crime boss Bourdain.

Dakota is a machine head, her brain is wired with enhancements once used by the military but outlawed since the Port Gabriel Massacre where enemies took control over the enhanced soldiers and killed off a whole town of Freeholders. Her dark secret is that she was victim to that mind control.

Corso is a Freeholder expert in ancient protocols blackmailed to hack into the ship they found while Dakota is the designated pilot.

The Author

Gary Gibson is a new acquaintance. According to Tor UK he is a graphic designer, previously magazine editor, in his home city of Glasgow. He has been writing since the age of fourteen.

World building

Humanity is forbidden knowledge of FTL travel or even attempting to get it or face boycott by the Shaol but the Shaol themselves hides a secret that starts to come to light when light from multiple Nova’s in the Magellanic Clouds reach our part of the galaxy.

Humanity is not united; it consists of different fractions that often fight each other. The Consortium dominates but wars are still fought on some worlds. Principal in this story is Freehold who fights a war against the Uchidan but are losing ground so in a desperate attempt to turn the tides they go after FTL travel.

The world building is quite extensive and includes some surprising twists. The underlying threat is intriguing and it is with anticipation I read the next books in the trilogy.


Trader is always there when something happens, he tries to steer events to the most favorable outcome for the Shaol.

Dakota is hired to bring a secret cargo to Boudain’s asteroid but she is betrayed and in that confusion the astroid is destroyed making her even more a fugitive than before. Boudain and his scary bodyguard go after her bent on revenge. That is about the time she gets an offer to pilot a Freehold frigate to the derelict starship. She doesn’t have much choice in the matter; she got to take the job.

Here is where the real action starts with the hardcore Freehold investors on one side and Dakota and Corso on the other side. But the thing is that they find so much more than an FTL drive and someone has to take responsibility to what is going to happen with that new knowledge.


Again a story with wonderful characters. I am on a roll when it comes to new authors. Dakota is a complex character with lots of luggage and she makes many mistakes and she is not always in full control of events but she is still endearing. Corso grew up in a society where might is right, where the only way to become a full citizen is to kill but yet he manages to keep his humanity and grows as the story unfolds. I especially like Dakota’s ship. I have a thing for sentient ships with an attitude since Mutineers’ Moon.

My view

Stealing Light is a fast paced space opera about ancient alien secrets and a great start of a series. I read it in two days; it was pretty exciting to read. It’s the kind of story I like with strong characters and a mysterious past to decipher. The only thing missing is a love story. I sincerely recommend the whole series as a good example of modern science fiction.