From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters
Publication date: 10 April 2018
Genre: Adult science fiction
Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book. I had assumed it would be pretty much a straight science fiction novel heavily featuring AI with a bit of mystery. Instead Peters has created an exciting high-concept sci-fi-meets-crime story with a dash of noir.
After a five year sabbatical following the tragic death of his wife and fellow agent Alysha, Keon Rause returns to the distant colony world of Magenta to resume service with the Magentan Intelligence Service. With him he brings an artificial recreation of his wife’s personality, a simulacrum built from every digital trace she left behind. She has been constructed with one purpose – to discover the truth behind her own death – but Keon’s relationship with her has grown into something more, something frighteningly dependent, something that verges on love.
Cashing in old favours, Keon uses his return to the Service to take on a series of cases that allow him and the artificial Alysha to piece together his wife’s last days. His investigations lead him inexorably along the same paths Alysha followed five years earlier, to a sinister and deadly group with an unhealthy fascination for the unknowable alien Masters; but as the wider world of Magenta is threatened with an imminent crisis, Keon finds himself in a dilemma: do his duty and stand with his team to expose a villainous crime, or sacrifice them all for the truth about his wife?
The rich world building in From Darkest Skies was my favourite part of the book. Peters doesn’t dump too much information on you at once. Instead, you’re able to discover and wonder at a decent pace. The planet Magenta’s surface, weather systems, and lifestyles were integrated well with the story and worked perfectly. The technology in the book is impressive without being overwhelming — the reader isn’t bogged down by technical explanations, confusing science, or mind-numbing explanations. The world building is revealed in a very natural and effective way and I really enjoyed learning more about the planet and the way of life under its surface.
Speaking of technology, I love a good AI book and this one felt very realistic. Liss is an important part of the book but not its main focus, yet you still get a good feel for the tech that created her and duplicated Alysha’s memories. I actually expected her to play a much more significant role in the book — I thought it would be more about Keon’s tentative and budding relationship with the AI. Instead, he spends more time trying to get his working life back together in order to investigate what happened to his wife. The main focus of the book is truly on Alysha and their relationship, not Liss and the ethics behind her existence. I was a little disappointed by this, but I have a feeling this is something we will explore later on in the series.
Keon is our main character, along with Liss and the ever-present ghost of Alysha. Keon is incredibly single-minded — his whole point of existence is to figure out what happened to his wife. Although he’s sometimes annoyingly stubborn, Peters does a good job of making sure the reader is aware of why Keon does what he does. There are other characters in this book, mostly made up of his team. I really enjoyed his relationship with his colleagues — they’re a diverse bunch and played well off of one another. However, this novel is really driven by Keon himself.
Overall, I liked From Darkest Skies. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While it doesn’t stand out amongst the crowded sci-fi market, it’s an enjoyable read that I would recommend. I’m very much looking forward to continuing on with this series and have the sequel, From Distant Stars, on my shelf now.
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Have you read From Darkest Skies? What did you think? Is it in your TBR? Let me know!