Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Print Length: 560 pages
Read Date(s): July 30, 2021 – July 31, 2021
The Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author of Children of Time brings us an extraordinary space opera about humanity on the brink of extinction, and how one man’s discovery will save or destroy us all.
The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery . . .
Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.
After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared—and Idris and his kind became obsolete.
Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects—but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.
***Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest assessment and thoughts about the book.***
This book is space opera at its finest. Compelling characters, masterful world-building, and an engaging plot that explores important themes…this story has it all. The pacing is great and kept me wanting to continue turning the page to see what would happen next. This book did not feel like it was over 500 pages long. I finished it in two days, and I read most of it in one sitting. I was that engrossed with the world and story. That being said, the writing was quite dense, and the story starts with dropping you into a world where there are multiple factions, planets, and races, which was confusing at first. The author, however, did a fantastic job of revealing details about different aspects of the world at a good pace throughout the story and included a glossary/appendix of important planets/races/events at the end of the book to help keep everything straight.
The world-building in this story was absolute perfection. So much wonderful creativity was on display here, and I loved every minute I spent with this spectacular piece of art. The races of the many different creatures were so much fun to learn about. Never in my life did I think I’d come across a world-conquering race of giant clams, especially one that also includes a giant gangster clam. Like, what? All of the creatures and races received in-depth, excellent descriptions that made them jump off the page, which was a lot of fun. Although, at times the description did bog down the story a bit, especially in the very beginning when many of the new creatures were first introduced. I also particularly loved the concept of unspace and its link to the mind. The descriptions of the characters’ time in unspace and its impacts were some of my favorite things to read in the book. The author succeeded in making this universe seem massive and unique and left me wanting to learn so much more.
The characters in this book were deep and fully realized. Their motivations and flaws were unveiled in a natural way as the story unfolded. It felt like I was going on this adventure with them and getting to know them along the way. The two main characters, Solace and Idris, are alike in some ways yet also so different. Solace was one of many warrior angel sisters of the Parthenon, a group of genetically enhanced soldiers, who felt most at home in the strict hierarchy of her military society. However, she began to realize the allure of freedom and individuality throughout the story and grew more independent as she interacted with the other characters. Whereas, Idris was done with the military at the beginning of the story and did not want to be part of anything bigger than himself ever again. As events unfold, he was called upon to do his duty and leave his nomadic life behind. The two of them were bred for war, in a sense, and spent most of the book dealing with the aftermath of the last war they were instrumental in winning. Idris, in particular, showed clear signs of PTSD. The side characters in this novel were just as well-conceptualized as the main characters, and the author did a great job of making me feel something for all of them, heroes and villains alike. Of course, for the villains it was mostly feelings of horror or dread.
The plot of the story was interesting and complex. It kept me guessing at many points, and my guesses were often wrong. Although, in hindsight many of the twists should have been obvious as there were great hints sprinkled throughout the text. The politics in the story was fascinating to read because it captured certain aspects of human nature so well. Humans love to organize into groups and seem to distrust individuals from other groups. Typically, the only time the groups get along is when facing some common disaster or external threat, which is illustrated quite well by the multiple human, and alien, factions in this book. It also showed how quickly the threat and the great gains of unity are forgotten once the disaster passes, which ultimately leads to division yet again. If only we, and the characters, could learn from the past and not forget history. The book also explored many other powerful topics, including the ethics of using human subjects in research and genetic manipulation and whether individuals should have to give up their freedom for the sake of the greater good.
Overall, this was a phenomenal book, and I cannot praise it enough. If you like science fiction or space opera, you will probably love this book. It laid the foundation for a fantastic story, and I cannot wait to see what’s next. Therefore, I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.