Footsteps in the Sky by Greg Keyes
Keyes juggles plot threads involving first contact, corporate espionage, traditionalists versus progressive technologists, power struggles, abusive families and grieving for recently-passed relatives, all without dropping a single one. Grounds everything, even the novel’s villains, in sympathetic characters that you may not agree with, but still don’t want to see harmed.
It’s an incredible feat. I’m awestruck by it, and more than a little jealous.
Three things it taught me about writing:
- Sometimes just listening to a character's thoughts as they worry about their present and plan for their future is enough to tell us what we need to know about the world the story's taking place in.
- Spending time with villains, and sympathizing with them, raises the stakes of the climax for everyone.
- Always handy to have a newcomer to the world as an audience surrogate. As they learn and explore the world, so does the reader, without any info-dumping being necessary.