Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.
This is commonly known as Chekhov’s gun. Mead is not a fan of this concept. Instead, he favors a more touristic approach.
The protagonist is a courier who also deals in artifacts from Earth, mankind’s cradle that was destroyed 8,000 years ago. So he’s always going from one planetary system to another in his ship. And Mead takes his time to describe the scenery, traditions, customs, and inhabitants of the picturesque human settlements scattered across the galaxy.
Actually, he begins with a Translator’s Note explaining that “the dialog in this story is spoken in Universal” and had to be translated into English so “[t]he reader’s indulgence is appreciated.” I liked this because it suggested that Mead’s writing would be meticulous.
Unfortunately, Swallow the Sky has more than a few typos and errors. The word “hangar”, for instance, is always spelled “hanger”. Reviews on Amazon, however, are extremely positive and not one of them mentions this.
Eight thousand years have passed since Earth was destroyed by a giant technological accident. Only one ship made it to New Earth with precious few artifacts from mankind’s cradle. The small groups of survivors adopted a Covenant that has had some advantages but it has also banned some technologies.
All that humans know about Old Earth and its sad fate can be found in a child’s book and some recordings from the first colonists of New Earth.
Now a mining tycoon is convinced that he can locate more artifacts and knowledge from the ancients. To do so he frames a courier who also specializes in dealing with ancient artifacts.
The book also contains a significant amount of somewhat spicy elements, although that is not mentioned in its description. Sex does not bother me but if nudity (and its foreseeable consequences) is going to be a significant element, I suggest that should be mentioned in the book’s description.