Skip to main content

From Distant Stars (SF) - Sam Peters ****

What we have here is a satisfying detective thriller with lashings of juicy conspiracy theory, all set in a future colony where a selection of humans had been dumped many decades before by mysterious alien invaders. Although it is a sequel to Sam Peters' From Darkest Skies, there was no problem coming to From Distant Stars as I did without having read the previous title - in fact there's enough back story here that it might seem overdone if you come to this second.

The great thing about this book is that there are big underlying themes and the reader is presented with a real mystery about what is going on, as to begin with problems and onslaughts pile into the team of detectives. The hospital became a regular location, given the pounding some characters take. Peters makes good use of the tech, which via a built-in 'servant' provides a kind of super Siri service that feeds information to lenses in the eyes, so quite often a character can be talking to someone and simultaneously receiving a second feed of information.

The only downside to this is that during complex scenes, particularly the three or four all-out battles, it gets very difficult to follow the flow of where information is coming from and who is doing what to whom. It was a combination of this confusion and the fact that I guessed the main twist in the ending about halfway through what is a quite lengthy book that prevented me from giving From Distant Stars a five star rating. (It's a very minor moan, but it was also amusing that the cover proclaims 'His wife died. Her digital copy has been erased. So who is using her name?' But I can't recall anywhere in the plot that features someone using his wife's name.)

As Peters gets into top gear in the last fifty pages or so it becomes a true un-put-downable page turner, and though there are clear hooks being set up for a sequel, the ending (unlike some series books) is satisfying enough to make this feel like a good stand-alone read. There's no sense of being let down at the end.

All in all, Peters had made an impressive contribution to the thriving 'detectives in space' sub genre, and I look forward to more.


Paperback:  

Kindle:  
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you


Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The God Game (SF) - Danny Tobey *****

Wow. I'm not sure I've ever read a book that was quite such an adrenaline rush - certainly it has been a long time since I've read a science fiction title which has kept me wanting to get back to it and read more so fiercely. 

In some ways, what we have here is a cyber-SF equivalent of Stephen King's It. A bunch of misfit American high school students face a remarkably powerful evil adversary - though in this case, at the beginning, their foe appears to be able to transform their worlds for the better.

Rather than a supernatural evil, the students take on a rogue AI computer game that thinks it is a god - and has the powers to back its belief. Playing the game is a mix of a virtual reality adventure like Pokemon Go and a real world treasure hunt. Players can get rewards for carrying out tasks - delivering a parcel, for example, which can be used to buy favours, abilities in the game and real objects. But once you are in the game, it doesn't want to let you go and is …

Uncertainty - Kostas Kampourakis and Kevin McCain ***

This is intended as a follow-on to Stuart Firestein's two books, the excellent Ignorance and its sequel, Failure, which cut through some of the myths about the nature of science and how it's not so much about facts as about what we don't know and how we search for explanations. The authors of Uncertainty do pretty much what they set out to do in explaining the significance of uncertainty and why it can make it difficult to present scientific findings to the public, who expect black-and-white facts, not grey probabilities, which can seem to some like dithering.

However, I didn't get on awfully well with the book. A minor issue was the size - it was just too physically small to hold comfortably, which was irritating. More significantly, it felt like a magazine article that was inflated to make a book. There really was only one essential point made over and over again, with a handful of repeated examples. I want something more from a book - more context and depth - that …

Where are the chemistry popular science books?

by Brian Clegg
There has never been more emphasis on the importance of public engagement. We need both to encourage a deeper interest in science and to counter anti-scientific views that seem to go hand-in-hand with some types of politics. Getting the public interested in science both helps recruit new scientists of the future and spreads an understanding of why an area of scientific research deserves funding. Yet it is possible that chemistry lags behind the other sciences in outreach. As a science writer, and editor of this website, I believe that chemistry is under-represented in popular science. I'd like to establish if this is the case, if so why it is happening - and what can be done to change things. 


An easy straw poll is provided by the topic tags on the site. At the time of writing, there are 22 books under 'chemistry' as opposed to 97 maths, 126 biology and 182 physics. The distribution is inevitably influenced by editorial bias - but as the editor, I can confirm …