Adam Roberts is our most intellectually engaged and literary science fiction author, crafting sentences the equal of any by Ian McEwan or Kazuo Ishiguro. His 11th novel, By Light Alone, hinges on the idea that genetic engineering has created hair that can photosynthesise sunlight. The world’s poor survive simply by being outdoors, while the rich shun the treatment and consume expensive food.
Wealthy, indolent New Yorkers George and Marie Denoone are on a skiing holiday in Turkey when their young daughter Leah is kidnapped. A side-effect of the gene process is that women can no longer bring babies to term, so children have become a prized black-market commodity in the developing world. Leah is eventually reunited with her parents but she has been changed by her experience.
Not only is the novel a satire about the gulfs of understanding between rich and poor but also an affecting study of the gulfs of understanding between parents and children.
By Light Alone, by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, RRP£12.99, 407 pages