Sent to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 20/04/17
Format: Hardback, 336pp
Summed up in a word:
First Impressions: I am falling way behind on my Sci-Fi reading so I was really happy when Stevie from Gollancz (thank you!) asked me about reviewing From Darkest Skies. My main concern with SF is that quite often it takes quite a significant chunk of the book to settle into an alien/foreign world and its rules. Sam Peters is an efficient author who quickly drew me in with gorgeous/frightening imagery of other worldly planets. After the main plot got into its 2nd/3rd act I really began to appreciate and enjoy the book. From Darkest Skies is an up and down thriller with a superb SF setting. Check out all the other epic releases Gollancz has coming out in 2017 here: Gollancz Books
Book Synopsis: 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? (Official Gollancz Synopsis)
My Review – Missing the mark on a few elements but overall an appealing space thriller. Magenta is an unforgettable planet and Peters is a master of imagery.
Warning: There are one or two spoilers included in this review concerning characters and their involvement in the plot.
I was so excited when I received my copy of From Darkest Skies. A science-fiction thriller where a grieving husband uses an A.I. recreation of his wife to try and solve the riddle of her mysterious death, I was ready to have my mind blown. And it was, just not in the manner I was actually expecting. From Darkest Skies is a satisfactory science-fiction/thriller story with some pretty amazing elements running through it. Keon Rouse has been returned to Magenta, his home planet, after a 5 year stay on Earth.
He was removed from earth after a priceless piece of technology that he was guarding was stolen. The grief from his loss is still fresh even after 5 years and returning to where they shared a life prompts Keon to jump straight back into an investigation regarding the suspicious death of his beloved wife Alysha. To help him, he has an A.I. version of Alysha which was created by compiling all the digital information she left behind and inserting it into a physical shell.
Keon returns to his post in Magenta’s own intelligence service. His mission, and the main plot line, is to investigate the horrific and explosive death of a high profile individual. Keon’s position allows him to select his own team, and he chooses some interesting individuals. Rangesh is Magentan agent who is incredibly laid back, talks like a bro (Boss dude…!) but is an extremely competent detective. Patterson is an ex-lover and angry badass. Finally Zohreya is an artificially engineered warrior who is both effective and honest. I really enjoyed the team’s dynamic, not all friendly, but not all business either.
The two central plots both work quite well together and also work separately too. I enjoyed the main investigation into the explosive deaths more that I did Keon’s quest to find out what happened to Alysha on that train. The main investigation takes the crew all over Magenta and it is a stunning and exciting setting. I cannot wait to see how it translates to television. The rich colours/landscape, the harsh and unforgiving weather conditions and the ‘transgravity’ have so much potential for making this something amazing on the small screen.
I did not appreciate Keon’s mission for answers because of two reasons. The lesser reason is that it is a rather repetitive plot line. I didn’t really get into it too much and the only time I really invested myself in it was right towards the end. The main reason that I didn’t appreciate Keon’s personal plot was because Alysha’s A.I. was barely included as a character (one of the main reasons I was excited for the book) and did very little towards the objective other keep the pain in Keon’s heart fresh…
Sam Peters has a writing style that packs a punch and I enjoyed every moment I spent inside his world. Peters explores some interesting themes including disease, drug addiction, media, government and grief. My all time favourite element of this book was most definitely the imagery. I felt that Peters managed to express his world perfectly and I very much look forward to reading more adventures set on these planets. Hopefully fleshing out ‘The Masters’ a lot more…? Please!
Overall I have given From Darkest Skies 3/5 stars because though I appreciated the setting, the writing and 1 out of 2 storylines, I felt let down that the main attraction to this novel was seriously underdeveloped. Sam Peters is an outstanding science-fiction author though and his writing makes me happy, so I can’t wait for him to continue the series, which he needs to, soon!
About Sam Peters: Sam Peters is a mathematician, part-time gentle-person adventurer and occasional screenwriter who has seen faces glaze over at the words ‘science fiction’ once too often. Inspirations include Dennis Potter, Mary Doria Russell, Lynda La Plante, Neal Stephenson, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Has more hopes than regrets, more cats than children, watches a lot of violent contact sport and is an unrepentant closet goth.