Cassini images courtesy NASA/JPL – Caltech

Science fiction to knock your socks off 
12 August 2011: The Star, Johannesburg.

Tom Learmont’s Light Across Time is one of the most intriguing books I’ve read in a long time. As South African as boerewors in places, it is at once a romance, a treasure hunt, a riddle game and a sweeping sci-fi saga.

Steve had his first close encounter in the mountains of the then Rhodesia. Mel, who hails from the barren plains of the Free State, is a sceptic observer writing articles on alien abductions for a lunatic fringe magazine. Both have emotional baggage, but tentatively, tenderly, via e-mail and erotic poetry, they find each other.

In a London pub, the enigmatic Elemer befriends them and sets them a challenge and a riddle game. His clues send them delving into palaeontology and geology, alternative science and Ancient Egypt with side forays into poetry and the court of Henry VIII.

What does it mean? What’s the connection? And what is the impact on their growing relationship? The action moves from London to the Joburg Zoo and the Cradle of Humankind, from the Radium Beer Hall to the Tswaing Crater.

It does all make sense and it’s a sense that will knock your socks off. I’ve read a lot of science fiction, but I’ve never met this premise before.

Tom Learmont lives in Joburg and his setting is as realistic as it is possible to be. This lively narrative is packed with fascinating facts and memorable characters.

And the finale – I am not going to be a spoiler – is as sweeping as any Star Trek fantasy. Bravo. Jenny de Klerk is the editor of


23 November 2011: The Citizen, Johannesburg.

This is a high-flying novel that requires imaginative reading. Different images, situations and characters are blended in a story that is intriguing and fascinating but needs attentive concentration. Unidentified flying objects mix with “earthlight” that radiates from a crystalline substance only found in Zimbabwe and mined by aliens. Add a touch of time travel and you have a science fiction novel with a difference. It takes a writer’s courage to create a plot with such an intricate mix of situations and succeed in making a story out of it. In addition, Learmont is a virtuoso with the English language, which makes reading the book a double pleasure – not for easy relaxation but worth the effort.  Dries Brunt

23 October 2011: Sunday TimesNovelist Christopher Hope, when asked by columnist Kate Sidley what he’s been reading, said: “I’ve just finished, in two large gulps, Tom Learmont’s novel Light Across Time. Anyone who can stitch together time-travel, Nabokov, London pubs, hijacking, Free State vistas and Joburg’s Radium Beer Hall – an old haunt of mine – gets my vote. It is a wonderful piece of work.”

August 2011: BEELD Boekmerk. Van die opwindendste ontwikkelings tans in Suid-Afrikaanse letterkunde gebeur in Engelstalige wetenskapfiksie.   Lauren Beukes het vroeër vanjaar die Britse Arthur C. Clarke-prys gewen en S.L. Grey (oftewel Sarah Lotz) sit met ’n kontrak van ’n Britse uitgewer vir drie gruwelfantasie.  En nou volg Tom Learmont se Light Across Time.                                                                                                                       

27 July 2011: Library Thing. Light Across Time has been described as “science fiction romance… with a liberal splash of Nabokov” but despite this somewhat dubious label it is a fascinating book which enlightens while it entertains with a blend of physics, literature, geology, history and mathematics. Best of all is the setting: former Rhodesian, journalist and novelist Learmont has divided the action between London and Johannesburg, a welcome change for everyone who is tiring of the ubiquitous Western Cape scenery.The author himself makes a guest appearance as a hack in his beloved Radium Beer Hall: journos Alan Stevens and Melanie Austen explore time travel and other conundrums in a lively transcontinental romp. adpaton

31 December 2015:  Library Thing. Light Across Time, evidently Tom Learmont’s first novel. A tasty and aromatic blend of romance and science fiction, with hints of a huge number of conspiracy-theory tropes, and overtones of good physics and accurately drawn characters and localities. I’d say it’s a must-read for Dragoneers, but the author’s website tells me it’s already out of print, and secondhand copies are insanely expensive. Get it from the library, if possible. I loved being able to picture to within a yard or two where the Johannesburg scenes happened; I grew up in that area. And the female lead’s ma lived in Harrismith, about halfway from there to where I am (about three hours’ drive from both); the description of the place rings true in all particulars. Grab it if you can! HF Glen.

                                                                                                                                                        EMAILS FROM READERS       

02 May 2012  

Hi Tom,

I just finished reading your book, Light Across Time and thoroughly enjoyed it, thanks. I’m employed at the University of Cape Town, and the book was in the “Special Collection” section of the Library. Being in the Geological Science Dept., I asked questions about Andalusite/Chiastolite, and sure enough, there are samples here – even one with a distinct cross in the make up. Having grown up in Zim and SA, I was fascinated by the  links to Zim, South Africa and London. I also enjoyed the relationship between Steve and Mel, and I guess we all would like to have a choice of being taken away somewhere, sometime . . . 


John Harrison

19 March 2012: 

Dear Tom,

Light Across Time is astounding! Completely, absolutely astounding. It should be submitted to the Nobel authorities for their top literary award. It will also probably form the base for a world-wide cult.

Thanks for the experience.

Athol Desmond


 21 August 2011:

Dear Tom Learmont,
If I hadn’t posted on the Guardian messageboard thread, I wouldn’t have read your post and I wouldn’t have read the excerpt from Light Across Time. Then I wouldn’t have had that weird but good sensation of reading something that evokes another country so vividly that I want to go there. I didn’t know there was SciFi coming out of South Africa. Shame on me. 

Ruth Rolle  London UK

21 July 2011:


Just to say I really enjoyed your book. At one point I did not know what was going on with all the different threads and topics, but you wrapped it up brilliantly. Was a joy to read it.

Johannes de Villiers                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               7 August 2011:


I just finished reading Light Across Time. I really enjoyed it. It is happily divergent from a lot of other recent SciFi. I hope you get started on your next novel soon:) If you book any public talks, let me know.

Thanks and best wishes,

Dave Thomas