Review - From Darkest Skies, Sam Peters

Author Information
Author Name: 
Publication Details
Book Title: 
From Darkest Skies
ISBN: 
9781473214750
Year of Publication: 
Publisher: 
Categories & Groupings
Sub Genre: 
Book Synopsis

FROM DARKEST SKIES is a high-concept science fiction thriller wrapped around a love story, a man's search for the truth about his dead wife, and his relationship with the artificial intelligence he has built to replace her. Set in a future where the aliens came, waged war, and then vanished again, this is a striking new voice in science fiction.

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?

Book Review

Sam Peters creates an offworld noirish detective story in From Darkest Skies. At first blush Koenig Rause, generally known as Keys, exhibits all the traits of a classic age detective. Thrown out of his job for some serious but unspecified misdemeanour, only in that job after fleeing his real job as an investigator, full of self loathing, crawling back to his old team to try and solve the case that made everything go bad. That case – the death of his wife Alysha in more than suspicious circumstances. So far, so noir.

The twist in this tale is that Keys is going back to the planet Magenta with an illegal robotic simulation of his wife in tow. Unable to cope with the grief, he has illegally constructed an artificial intelligence that looks like his dead wife and carries memories constructed from all of the public and private data he could make available. The real Alysha kept things from Keys about her work and as his new version has no access to private information, the AI cannot help him with those details.

From Darkest Skies starts on Earth. The early going in this book is tough, with Peters engaging in plenty of tell don’t show exposition. In a nutshell – some aliens came, killed lots of people and then distributed many of the rest across 37 planets for reasons still unknown. Keys himself comes from Magenta, an icy planet ironically settled mainly by Polynesians. Magenta is not all that hospitable – only a small equatorial band is inhabitable and even then the weather is shocking. And it sports a gravity 1.4 times that of Earth so that many people require a type of gene therapy and drugs to survive on the surface.

Keys returns to Magenta where he is given a small, slightly offbeat team which he enhances by taking on an old friend of his wifes. They are tasked with investigating the death of an heriess, killed by what was supposed to be a harmless recreational drug native to the planet. It is not long before this investigation and Keys off the book investigation into the death of Alysha five years before start to run into each other.

When the investigation finally kicks off, From Darkest Skies works as an effective science fiction police procedural mash up. There is the requisite evil corporation, departmental politics, personality clashes, a mysterious stranger who seems to be one step ahead and some interesting action sequences. And behind it all a much larger mystery. The problem is that there is much of Peter’s universe that is only vaguely sketched. So that the connections between Key’s investigation and the broader context of that universe, including why humanity has been scattered and what the evil corporations are actually trying to achieve is vague at best.

Comparisons have been made with Humans and Westworld, probably due to the existence of an AI character, the idealised version of Keys’ wife Alysha. But while it has an android character who is essential to the plot, From Darkest Skies is not really like either of these. It is its own form of hybrid robot, noir crime, space opera, corporate skulduggery story and when it works or when it doesn’t work it does so on its own terms.

All Reviews of Books by this Author

Post new comment