Braking Day by Adam Oyebanji is the sort of science fiction that keeps readers on their toes throughout. Set on a generation ship on the way to what is intended to be salvation, the story is centred around the titular Braking Day. This is the mid-point in the journey, where the ship starts slowing down rather than accelerating in preparation for their destination. But in this case, this is where things go wrong. Set around a young engineer, it is a fast-paced story, blending classic space opera with elements of a psychological thriller and playing with both the reader and the characters’ minds, creating a strong sense of the uncanny.
Ravinder MacLeod is in the middle of this story. He knows Braking Day means there is no going back – once the brakes are on, for better or worse, their course is set. This is a source of anxiety for him, as he quite liked his status quo, where he was able to ignore some of his personal anxieties. But now shit’s getting real, and as the story progresses, Ravi is torn between his role as an engineer within the Archimedes’ officer corps and his humble origins – especially his cousin Boz, who may be brilliant and ambitiously creative in her own experiments, but also an ex-con. I especially liked Boz, with her no-nonsense attitude and inventiveness, but Ravi himself was a great character as well.
The world building in Braking Day was stellar. Not only did the generation ship Archimedes feel like a community and a world with distinct cultures, but each of the ships that Ravi encounters along the story does too. There are clear remnants of Earth culture that have survived through the generations – the Archimedes has been on its journey for over 130 years – but also elements that have developed out of that contained environment into something truly its own. And I thought it was brilliant how different each of the ships was, which really helped my sense of immersion. Oh, and there are space dragons. Of a sort. So that’s absolutely awesome!
In Braking Day, Adam Oyebanji manages to write a strong debut. The reader, along with Ravi, is unsure about which parts are real and which aren’t as events unfold. It is a fast-paced, but still character driven story, full of action and compelling twists. Oyebanji is definitely an author to watch – his next book will be a spy thriller, so a very different genre – and I am very curious to see where his writing career takes him. I’m a fan.