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October 11, 2021

3 Books for Science Fiction Fans

by MK French

Technology and scientific advancement can improve society, but in the hands of the wrong people, it can be used for evil. The science fiction genre explores ways science and technology help and hinder.

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Destroyer of Light by Jennifer Marie Brissett

Destroyer of Light
October 2021; Tor Books; 978-1250268655
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); science fiction

In a future where humanity was decimated by aliens existing in multiple dimensions, several colony ships landed on Eleusis to rebuild civilization. There are four areas of the planet: Day, Night, Dusk, and Dawn. Between the different areas are the rich and the poor, dissidents that hide in Night and avoid the scorched Day part of the planet. In the past, a young girl is abducted along with other children in a village within Dusk. In the present, genetically modified twins search for the missing son of a human/alien couple, and a young woman with inhuman powers rises through the ranks of an insurgent group with a dangerous mission. The three threads link together, and Eleusis will see drastic changes.

Destroyer of Light is marketed as "the Matrix meets an Afro-futuristic retelling of Persephone." I can definitely see that, as the Lattice is difficult to interface with for humans without a biomask to filter the data. All of the colonists were altered while in stasis chambers in order to terraform the otherwise harsh planet and develop various superhuman abilities like increasing the growth rate of plants. The abducted girl is sexually assaulted and only spared being killed because the odd color of her eyes indicates that she has the genetic potential for odd skills. The twins were modified in such a way that they process all senses at intensities and sensitivities beyond the human range, as well as telepathically communicate with each other. This allows them to navigate through the violent underworld that developed in the big cities, as well as serve as bounty hunters. And throughout the planet are the aliens, whose forms twist in and out of dimensions and speak in the same multidimensional language that the Lattice operates in. All of these little facets of world building weave in and out of the story threads, building up over the course of the book.

There is sexual and physical violence in this, as well as abductions to create an army of child soldiers, human trafficking, drug use, cross-species sex, and threats of further danger to come. While at first I was a little confused about how the three threads of the story would come together, it clicked for me about halfway through the book. I was drawn in from the start, not just with the way the characters were presented, but how the world building was subtly expanded and affected how the story played out. Everyone had a story and part to play, even the bit characters that are plot devices. It's exquisitely done, and while I raced through to find out how it ended, I also wished I read more slowly so that I didn't have to put it down. While the science fiction elements are what makes the plot possible, it's the very human connections and relationships that makes it hang together and be so compelling.

Buy Destroyer of Light at Amazon

The Connection by David Billingsley

The Connection
February 2020; Indie; 979-8611293256
ebook, print (295 pages); time travel

In the town of Dinley, Texas, DJ Sandy McAllister is dealing with the loss of her husband and son. Her solitary existence is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a drifter. Along with his appearance is the eruption of addictive and powerful feelings she cannot control or deny. And she's not the only one.

Sandy has a strained relationship with her father and admits to not giving most people in Dinley any attention, but after a storm that knocks out the radio station's phones and radio feed, she sees the clean-cut stranger. She isn't the only one who sees this stranger, but the others have very different responses to him. That aggression also carries over to Sandy as well, and she's attacked on more than one occasion. The oddities in the townsfolk worsen over time; the men are increasingly abusive and agitated for the most part, while the women carry a fascination with him. For Sandy, it's almost an addiction. 

The explanation for this behavior comes slowly, especially with Sandy's father actively avoiding her questions. The secrets surrounding the Walker family are intentionally hidden, and adding to this small town phenomenon is the explanation for the stranger himself. We get bits and pieces from him, and his speech is almost deliberately obtuse as well. When the full back story is dumped on Sandy (and us) at the end, it's abrupt. I almost wished for an epilogue to really explore the fallout, because it was an emotional rollercoaster that ended with no recovery. I was definitely drawn into the story, but it was almost in spite of myself. 

Buy The Connection at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE!)

Stolen Earth by J. T. Nicholas

Stolen Earth
September 2021; Titan Books; 978-1789093155
ebook, print (400 pages); science fiction

Earth had been destroyed long ago due to environmental devastation, war, and unfettered AI reducing the rest to unlivable conditions. Survivors fled to the colonies in the rest of the solar system, crowding into an already overcrowded space. Gray captains a ship of outcasts, and they eke out a living on the Fringe of space; every calorie, bit of fuel, and a liter of oxygen must be purchased and accounted for. A risky job to return to Old Earth for artefacts would give them more than enough credits to stay afloat. Landing is one thing, but the truth of Old Earth can bring the Sol Commonwealth to its knees.

Billed as a cross between Firefly and The Expanse, this is a great sci-fi novel with little of the potential concerns of the comparators. The prologue gives us the background on Old Earth and the near coercive tactics of the Sol Commonwealth, but we almost don't even need it. We learn about fettered vs. unfettered AI concerns, the fact that everyone and everything is monitored, that living in the Fringe means they're outside SolComm's purview but piracy and privation are common. In this universe, either people are tightly regulated but dispensed the calories, oxygen, and fuel they need in SolComm, or else they scramble to stay afloat on their own with no guarantees.

We get to know each member of the crew, and I really like them, even the prickly Laurel. Each has their own reasons for staying outside of SolComm's purview, and they do have a code of honor. We see it in the first job they do when we meet them; rather than toe the line of the job, they barely break even because the station needs the stolen goods to survive. The Arcus crew knows how that is, and the eventual lure of a massive payout for stealing Old Earth artefacts could keep them going. The truth of Earth is then a sticking point; the lies that were perpetuated kept those in power at SolComm at the head of the table, so to speak. They were the ones to determine who was worthy of which resources and corruption ran rampant. Are we surprised by this? Not at all. Even if you don't get pessimistic about large government, Gray left the Navy because of orders he was expected to mindlessly carry out which targeted even the possibility of dissent against SolComm. We know from early on that corruption runs rampant.

I enjoyed Stolen Earth, and this look into the future. People are people, no matter where or when they are. These people are fascinating, not quite Robin Hood on the Fringe but still believing in honor and keeping their word. They believe in helping others when a wrong has been done, and these are exactly the kind of people I like to root for. I raced through the book to finish it because I had to know not only the big secret of Old Earth but how our crew would pull through. It's a big gamble, after all, but it's one that absolutely pays off for them and for us to read about.

Buy Stolen Earth at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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