FROM DISTANT STARS ***
Written by Sam Peters. RRP £16.99. Out 19th April 2018 from Gollancz
FROM DISTANT STARS is the latest novel from author Sam Peters and the sequel to his earlier book FROM DARKEST SKIES. It picks up as Agent Keon Rause is still mourning the death of his wife Alysha and concerned over the fact that an AI copy of her called Liss is still out there. After a shooting in a police-guarded room in a high-security hospital, he finds himself with another mystery to solve.
Agent Keon is a man in constant mourning over the woman he loved. The sections in which he describes his feelings (and confliction) over his long-lost wife are some of the book's highlights. The plot manages to tell what is an engaging detective story with a structure more in the vein of classic crime fiction, with some high concept science fiction ideas. The idea of ‘The Masters’ I found particularly fascinating, and it’s a concept that was well explored.
Of course, no book is without its problems. Towards the start, I found Peters style a little off-putting. He attempts to cram as much backstory as he can into the opening few chapters. Of course, it’s a necessary evil, when one is crafting a sequel. However, Peters chooses to do this while the opening sequences of this novel are occurring. What results is a somewhat convoluted section where random sentences reminding us of Keon’s backstory intermingle with his thoughts on current events.
Of course, world building within Science-Fiction is always a hard thing to do. You need to give your audience relevant exposition, but at the same time, you don’t want to drown them in it. This first section suffers from the latter, but as the book goes on it dissipates. I also found that at points, certain characters dialogue was….grating. Particularly the character of Rangesh, who somewhat bizarrely speaks nineties-skater-teen, using phrases such as ‘Totally dude!’ This seems a particularly odd choice to me. The book is set in the distant future and to have a character talking in a sense that seems outdated, was rather jarring. Perhaps a reason was given for this in the earlier novel, though if it was, I'm not aware and the result is it appears bizarre.
Peters has created an excellent entry within the Sci-Fi detective sub-genre. While still suffering from a glut of exposition within its opening section, when the novel gets going it gets going. Populated with believable human characters, with issues that no matter how far into the future we are they are, are still believable. It’s a genre that has a lot of solid entries and not an easy one to do, after all, you’re essentially telling a mystery in a world where you know the rules - you invented them, the readers didn't.
FROM DISTANT STARS, is an entertaining piece of high-concept science fiction. Mr Peters is an author to keep an eye on.
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