From Darkest Skies is the debut novel from Sam Peters (review copy from Gollancz). It’s a crime thriller set on a colony world in space. Agent Keon Rause is newly returned home and investigating the deth from drug overdose of a celebrity, while on the side investigating the death of his wife in a terrorist attack several years previously.
This is solid and dependable stuff. Think of a mismatched crew of investigators, led by Rause, all with different skills and mysterious backgrounds. Think of a simple investigation that reveals a major conspiracy that threatens the world. Think of signs that the wife’s death was not all it appeared to be. You know what to expect with this kind of thing.
The book does have some interesting aspects to it. Agent Rause has created an illegal android analogue of his late wife, Alysha, with a personality matrix built from everything that has been recorded of her life, opinions and what she did and believed. Rause uses it as a comfort as he fails to come to terms with her death. But it’s an imperfect copy, lacking Alysha’s inner life and deepest thoughts. The android is unable to help him piece together what motivated Alysha to run away in her final hours of life and find herself on a train that was blown up by terrorists. From Darkest Skies asks us how well we can ever know a person, even in a world of omni-present social media and surveillance.
Some interesting world-building is hinted at too. Alien beings called The Masters were responsible for the destruction of large parts of Earth, and for dispersing its population throughout the universe on a number of colony worlds. This piece of history is only mentioned in passing in this novel, but if offers some fascinating hints of where future books could go.
I will watch with interest to see what Peters comes up with next. This is a promising debut.
Goodreads rating: 3*