The Future In The Sky by Steve Stred

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Steve Stred is a name that is synonymous with writing some very dark and disturbing horror yarns, his short fiction is stuff that will shock and entertain you, whilst also crafting characters that we care about and stories that have an epic feel even if they are crammed into a novella.

The Future In The Sky is a breakout book in my opinion for Stred, and I’ve read a tonne of his work – even the books that people wince at due to its gratuitous nature (Ritual and Communion spring to mind here). What we have with The Future In The Sky is a wonderfully crafted dystopian nightmare, one that could be mistaken as being from the mind and pen of Asimov or dare I say it the grand master of Sci-Fi Philip K Dick (I’m thinking more Ubik here than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) – such is the brilliance and scope, not to mention the sprawling narrative on show.

Let’s not forget as I mentioned Stred is a man that has his feet firmly planted in the horror genre and those roots run deep. In a way he’ll always have that about his work, woven within his prose and storytelling and this is also evident in this book too (subtlety wins out), with the aching fear and dread that seem to bubble below the surface that propels the reader on and a special mention here too for the fabulous rendering of our main protagonist Lizzie and their plight. But that’s not all we also have the hidden and dastardly deeds that the ‘Empyrean’ regime are concocting whilst reigning over this brave new world. From one of indie horrors most original minds comes a new breed of dystopian horror that will enrapture and horrify in equal measure.

As the boy and girl ascended to the apex of their flight path, the clock struck zero, the sky flashed bright orange and the sound of a million souls screamed as everything was evaporated in the blink of an eye.

The Future In The Sky has an epic feel about it and showcases what a visionary talent Stred is. This talent is clearly visible in his horror tales, but here he writes with a mastery of the science fiction genre that makes it feel to the reader as if he has been writing this genre for years.

The Future In The Sky is a world building masterclass – and this is showcased in the detailed and painstakingly thought out environment our protagonist populate. They all live on a huge revolving space station that is in the dying (or dead) earth’s orbit. Stred has thought about it all it would seem as we get glimpses of backstory (these are not info dumps and are handled perfectly) that detail why this new space station was needed. We also discover the reasons behind the jumpers (this is a big part of the book that I won’t go into too much detail here for fear of spoilers – but people are chosen to jump from the space station to collect orbs – there are whole school classes that compete to be chosen for this honour). Then we have the technology – everything is thought out for us and it makes for a great read as it’s not overly heavy on the science behind things or the technology on show, we get a grasp of it and that’s all we need to know – we don’t get a lecture about quantum physics etc which I’m glad about, but still Stred strives to ensure that we know about this new environment and what is taking place before us, crafting a story that one can literally lose themselves in.

The whole concept of the Jumpers was tremendously thought out, it brought to mind for me the great dystopian novels of recent times, such as the Hunger Games, Maze Runner, The Chaos Walking Trilogy and The Handmaids Tale. There is a dark and sinister reasoning behind this somewhat seemingly simple task, a dark secret that is around population control and a way to overcome and survive however brutal this might be.

This brutality becomes apparent early on in the book – and there is one throw away comment by a member of ‘Empyrean‘ that chilled me to my very core, and it’s the subtlety that Stred details what happens to the other classes that don’t make the grade for the jump which shows great restraint and hints at the horrors because he could quite easily have shown us this in gory detail; we know he has the skill and deft touch to pull this off, but he doesn’t feel the need to, it’s this subtlety that he wields in this scene that worms its way into the readers mind forcing them to conjure up their own horrors that are happening behind closed doors.

I only have one issue with the book and in the end this issue turned out to be one of the books biggest strengths, it happened near the start of the book and it threw me for a loop when I first started reading. So much so I reached out to Stred and asked him if I’d missed something but explained my thoughts on the matter – he replied ‘You’re right. You’ll see how things play out!‘ My assumption was that Lizzie is a non-binary character. But because this drops fully after a few chapters – I at first and being honest thought it was a bunch of typos. Because I’ve not read much work with non-binary characters (actually I think this is the first ever book for me – so Stred a huge thank you for including such a character in your work) in it before it did take me a while to get on board with the them, they, we terminology when referring to themselves. But once it clicked and I knew that Lizzie was non-binary it flowed brilliantly.

The Future In The Sky builds masterfully to a brutal and eye opening conclusion that I never saw coming, and one that rocks the very foundations this story and world is built on – but good news, this is going to be a series so questions will be answered and I had a few by the stories end.

A brave new dystopian world from one of the most original and macabre minds in indie horror today. The Future In The Sky is a beguiling glance into the horrors of the world, the quest for belonging and the desperate hope for what is to come. Sci-Fi and dystopian fiction married perfectly together in an unholy ceremony you’ll never forget. Check it out today!

The Future In The Sky is available here.

Steve Stred

Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction. Steve is the author of two novels, four novellas, two short story collections as well as two poetry/drabble collections. Steve has had works featured in 100 Word Zombie Bites, 100 Word Horrors 3, and Forest of Fear.

Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews. Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.

Links:

stevestredauthor.wordpress.com

https://www.amazon.com/Steve-Stred/e/B01MS029YA

He tweets from @stevestred

Read our review of Communion here.

Read our review of Ritual here.

Read our review of The One That Knows No Fear here.

Read our review of The Stranger here.

Read our review of Piece of Me here.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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