from darkest skiesFrom Darkest Skies

Author: Sam Peters

Publisher: Gollancz

RRP: £14.99

Published: 20th April 2017

 

Sci-fi police thriller is one of those sub-genres that is guaranteed to get my interest straight away. I love a good mystery thriller and if there is sci-fi, fantasy or horror thrown in there as well you are automatically going to get me to peak my interest.

So along comes From Darkest Skies which is the story of Keon Rause. An investigator whose wife, Alyssa, was killed in a bombing 5 years ago while they both worked on the planet Magenta. He has since been living on Earth but as the book begins he is being sent back to Magenta under a cloud. Rause has secretly had a simulation of Alyssa built from every piece of herself that Alyssa left online. Rause hopes to use the simulation to help get to the bottom of Alyssa’s death while ostensibly investigating the suspicious death a media mogul’s socialite daughter.

The world building is really well done. This is a society that is still rebuilding and adjusting to the fact that about 150 years previously a mysterious race known only as the Masters arrived on Earth and wiped out 5 billion people while they radically remodelled the planet including the vaporising the Iberian Peninsula. They then relocated large parts of the population to other worlds and a lot of them are pretty inhospitable. The Masters have long since disappeared but the colonies and much of their technology remains but no one has been able to operate any of it. All of this is just background to the world and would be enough for an epic sci-fi series all of its own.

The planet of Magenta is a rubbish place to live. The gravity is too high and requires months of medical procedures to acclimate to. The weather is monumentally awful and its worst makes outside a no go area. Yet on this planet is a fully formed society which feels like a living, breathing place. There is an establishment and sub-cultures, prejudices and pressure groups. Peters has created a fully realised world which feels like just one place in a much wider universe.

So, the overall setting is great but what about the plot? It is a suitably twisting and turning narrative as Rause works the case assigned to him while keeping his other investigation as quiet as possible and comes to realise that there may actually be a connection between the two. Each wrinkle Rause encounters feels natural and the pace is spot on. Revelation after revelation sweeping you along while building to a great climax. The book isn’t lacking for action either and not just the kind that comes from police raids or angry, gun wielding businessmen. Thanks to the extreme weather on Magenta even walking from a landed shuttle to an awaiting transport becomes a white knuckle ride.

Keon Rause stems from the grand tradition of deeply flawed but likable leads in detective fiction. What really makes this though is the team that he works with. While they all initially seem fairly stock characters (The laid back hippy, the efficient combat specialist and the caustically abrasive intelligence officer) they are all given layered characters that are shown gradually as Rause gets to know them. They become such likable characters, both individually and as a team that I got increasingly worried for their wellbeing as the action escalated. These are characters that you will grow to care about. Watching the group slowly become a team is one of the joys of the book.

From Darkest Skies is everything you could ask for from a science fiction thriller and the first ‘must read’ book I have encountered this year. I fully expect it to make it to my top five of 2017. If it doesn’t then I will have read some amazing books in the interim. Seek this one out.

Sam Peters Interview

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