From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters

The Blurb On The Back:

Five years after the murder of his wife and fellow agent Alysha, Keona Rause returns to the distant world of Magenta to resume work with the Intelligence Service.

With him he brings an illegal artificial recreation of his wife, an AI built from every digital trace she left behind.

She has been constructed with one purpose – to discover the truth behind her own death – but Keona’s relationship with her has grown into something more.

Something that verges on love.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

 

It’s 2216.  Over 150 years earlier an alien race called the Masters changed Earth forever.  5 billion people died and whole countries were destroyed before they finally departed (having made no attempt to communicate), leaving behind strange spires and technology that no one can understand.  Their longest lasting legacy came from their relocating millions of humans to a number of colonies across the galaxy, including Magenta – a world with 1.4 times the gravity of Earth and fierce rain storms that can lift a person from their feet and smash them to the ground.

Keona Rause is from Magenta but moved to Earth after his wife, Alysha was killed in a terrorist attack five years ago.  Unable to deal with Alysha’s loss, Rause had a servant (effectively an android) created from the digital trail she left behind.  When a priceless Masters artefact is stolen from under Rause’s nose, he’s sent back to Magenta in disgrace, and rejoins the Tesseract (a quasi police/intelligence agency).  Having never believed the official investigation into Alysha’s death, he quietly reopens the case but doing so uncovers Alysha’s secrets, secrets that her replica claims not to know anything about …

Sam Peters’s debut SF thriller has some strong SF world building, with interesting concepts about identity and virtual consciousness but the thriller element – despite its elements of corporate skulduggery and the way it interweaves a drug case with Alysha’s death – never really sparks, the characters don’t quite come to life on the page and the resolution was disappointing.  I really enjoyed the future that Peters has created – the immigration concerns on Magenta ring true, as does the use of Magenta’s fauna to create drugs and the servants and technology in general is seamlessly integrated into the story.  However, neither Kause nor the other agents (Zohreya, Rangesh or Patterson) spring to life from the page (Rangesh’s dialogue tics really irritated me), the antagonists are all flat and a lot of their investigation depends on developments occurring or information being found off page.  Liss (the recreation of Alysha) is interesting but doesn’t have a lot to do other than tell Rause that he needs to move on.  The resolution is such that there could easily be a sequel to this and although the plot didn’t come good for me here, the scope of this universe and the mysteries within it means I would nevertheless read on.

FROM DARKEST SKIES was released in the United Kingdom on 20th April 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

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