From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters


Mad Mountain Man
Jun 29, 2010
Scottish Highlands
Keon Rause is a cop on Magenta, a distant colonised world, although FBI agent might be a little closer to the right image. His wife and fellow agent Alysha has been killed in a terrorist attack and Rause has had a five year secondment on Earth to try and escape from his memories. Except he’s used that time to create a virtual copy of his dead wife using all public recordings ever made of her to build up the simulation (a trope I’m coming across more often it seems this being the third time this kind of construct has appeared in recent stories). And far from forgetting, he is now returning to Magenta with Alysha’s simulation and an obsession to discover what was really behind her death.

What follows is a pretty much standard police procedural, which is, sadly, very much not my preferred sub-genre, so I guess I’m on a bit of a loser from the get go. But that is compounded by all sorts of SF elements that are touched on and then largely ignored. The strange and fascinating world of Magenta is examined in a fair bit of detail but essentially most other SF aspects are largely incidental. All bar one which, for me, is the elephant in the room. Someone has a bit of the unknowable alien Masters’ (one of those SF elements not followed through) tech that is so advanced it is effectively magic; an invisibility device. Peters’ might as well have drawn a big sign pointing at this bit of tech saying “here’s a dirty great big deus ex machina which you will encounter repeatedly throughout the story”. In fact it seemed to be almost the only real purpose for having the alien Masters in the story. These aliens have long since disappeared, apparently leaving the humans to their own devices, after, incidentally, first wiping out a significant proportion of humanity, then scattering them around the universe but leaving some massive automated ships that shuttle back and forth between the colonies using more unknowable tech. This seems such an incredibly significant concept and yet it is hardly looked at all. It’s just left hanging; often referred to but never really examined.

For me this just grated; it was never presented in any detail, the reader must just sit back and accept this handwavium, like it or not. To make matters worse the person with the invisibility device gets around and through locked doors etc, by closely following authorised people through these doors and then occupying the same room with these people. Of course nobody ever notices, nobody ever touches or is touched by this person, nobody even feels another presence. No this person is so quiet and so perfectly avoids contact with anyone else that no one even suspects their presence. For me this is like taking the deus ex machina and putting huge bells and whistles on it. I didn’t quite give up on the book but I nearly did. It pushed plausibility and my suspension of disbelief way too far. A disappointment and I won’t be continuing with the sequels.

2/5 stars (note a lover of police procedurals might enjoy this a lot more than I!)
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