Skip to main content

From Divergent Suns (SF) - Sam Peters ****

I really enjoyed the second in this series from Sam Peters, From Distant Stars, and was not disappointed by this book, which brings the trilogy to a close. As before, there's a satisfyingly well-portrayed colony world, set up by a mysterious race who turned up at Earth, transplanted humans (and killed many more), then disappeared, leaving their unmanned ships traversing the colony routes as lifelines.

On the storm-tossed world Magenta, central character Keon Rause, effectively a police officer, is trying to uncover a conspiracy that could wreck the colony while dealing with both his wife's apparent death (which by now he knows is faked) and an AI mockup of his wife that he created as a failed attempt to replace her. As before, one of the most interesting aspects is the built-in Servant, an all-purpose communication and information device which means there are quite often threaded conversations happening both verbally and mentally at the same time. Similarly the Tesseract, the AI that run's Keon's bureau is an interesting concept, which is explored far more in this volume than previous ones.

Although it's hard not to find Keon's obsession with finding his wife, which frequently gets in the way of logical action, irritating, there is once again a good mix of action and thoughtfulness, particularly in Keon's relationship with Liss, the AI substitute for his wife and the implications that arise about the nature and rights of artificial life.

My only real criticism of the book is that it feels rather less able to be read standalone than the previous volumes - I wouldn't read this one without at least reading From Distant Stars. This was particularly true for one (long gone) character (Gersh) who I can't for the life of me remember, but is clearly very significant.

From Divergent Suns pulls together the trilogy in a very satisfying manner. You do need to read the predecessor(s), but given that, it's an excellent book.
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 …