From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters

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From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters

Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: A layered science fiction novel that explores the use of AI to cure grief, but also has an exciting crime thriller at its core.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: April 2017
Publisher: Gollancz
ISBN: 9781473214750

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No one likes to see a loved one die, but when they do we can reflect on how they lived and eventually move on with a piece of them inside us. However, what would happen if we could take all the memories we have saved on the internet and combine them into an Artificial Intelligence that represented them? Would this work to keep them close, or just give you a false facsimile that prevents you from moving on?

Agent Keon Rause has been in mourning for five years over his wife Agent Alysha Rause, but rather than using this time to heal, he instead had her memories transferred into an AI programme that talks to him. With the voice of his dead wife ever present he is transferred back to the planet on which she was killed. Can he investigate her death whilst still working alongside his new colleague to catch a killer who is using a genetically modified drug to kill seemingly random victims?

Sometimes the best science fiction is simple, whilst other times it is layered so thickly that you do not know where to start. From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters is one of those intense sci fi novels that has more layers than a manic mille-feuille, but so many of them work. When choosing what the book is about you have an abundance of options; AI gone bad, designer drugs of the future, techo crime noir or mysterious alien space opera. The book is all these things, but Peters manages to balance them.

At its real core Darkest is a crime noir in the style of Blade Runner. Like many crime books our hero has an addiction; not alcohol or drugs, but an addiction to grief. Rause is driven by the need to know more about his wife's death and this leads to some dark places. The blurb on the book would have you believe that the story is all about Rause and the love for his dead wife's AI, but that is only part of a larger whole. The start is bogged down slightly by building the reader's knowledge of Rause and his wife, but it soon opens up into a wider story.

To accompany Rause on his quest are a set of mismatched agents who are just as interesting as he is, from the stoner cop who knows the drug scene a little too well, to the straight laced cop who appears a little too uptight. The AI storyline takes a backseat in favour of a solid crime story that happens to be set on a different planet.

It's the subtle world building that Peters creates throughout this book that's the highlight. As a story it concentrates on the crime, but we are given glimpses into a whole other meta story about an alien race that carved the Earth in their own image and shipped pockets of humanity onto new planets for a reason no one can understand. This is a huge concept and rather than adding 200 pages and explaining the extraneous details, Peters lets the information flow naturally so that it feels like a coherent background, never taking the spotlight from the main story.

With so many ideas to juggle, Peters does a great job of making it all make sense; the alien planets, the fungal drugs and the AI lover. Therefore, it is a slight shame that the crime element of the tale becomes a little too confused, with so many leads the reader can become a little lost. However, when you are lost in such a vibrant and alternative world you don't mind too much. Peters would have an absolute classic had the book managed to control the complexities of the crime genre element to the same standard as the science fiction elements.

Drugs and science fiction sometimes go well together as Afterparty by Daryl Gregory attests to great effect. You can also write complex ideas well if you have the know-how: Sand by Hugh Howey.

Buy From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters at Amazon.com.


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