Skip to main content

Chasing Solace (SF) - Karl Drinkwater ****

In the first book in this series, Lost Solace, Karl Drinkwater put his main character, Opal, through hell on what appeared to be, but wasn't, a space liner, along with developing her relationship with her ship's AI. Chasing Solace takes the next step, with an evolved AI (now called Athene) and Opal taking on another 'lost ship', more convinced than ever that this is the way to find Opal's missing sister, Clarissa.

As with the previous book there is only one significant human character in Opal. (In fact only one other human features at all, and then relatively briefly.) There's a long tradition of single-handed plays working well, but there the character is, effectively, in conversation with the audience. Here we don't get the benefit of being talked to, but Opal can, and does have conversations with Athene, or (when she can't contact the ship) with a limited version of Athene built into her suit.

Having the AIs to converse with does give us the opportunity for dialogue, but there is a lot of the book that is driven by action, as Opal takes on a second lost ship. Where the first appeared to be a liner, this is at first sight a 'gigatoir', a massive space-based abattoir - surely the most perfect version of an Alien-style scenario, where the whole ship is in effect the monster. Here, though, as was the case in the previous book, Drinkwater makes sure that things are rarely what they seem.

Later in the book we get an experience that reminded me of the end of the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey, which I got rather lost reading it, but it all comes together eventually. I wasn't entirely happy with the ending of the first book, as it was so obviously a 'to be continued.' In Chasing Solace, Drinkwater manages to provide an ending that is satisfying in itself while clearly leaving paths open for a sequel.

I really enjoyed the book. There is still a degree of limitation imposed by the lack of human interaction, but Drinkwater makes the best of the opportunity for Opal to interact with the AIs etc. One thing I found interesting was that a couple of chapters were written from the viewpoint of Athene, and I found those more engaging than most of the 'Opal versus the lost ship' chapters, where the obstacles could seem so arbitrary that it was hard to be too committed to the process. I hope we get to see more from Athene's viewpoint in the future - perhaps a book with Athene as the main character?

The universe that Drinkwater has created here has many opportunities to explore some really interesting new directions. I hope that the series will continue and will take up these opportunities.
Paperback 

Kindle 
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Patricia Fara - Four Way Interview

Patricia Fara lectures in the history of science at Cambridge University, where she is a Fellow of Clare College. She was the President of the British Society for the History of Science (2016-18) and her prize-winning book, Science: A Four Thousand Year History (OUP, 2009), has been translated into nine languages. An experienced public lecturer, Patricia Fara appears regularly in TV documentaries and radio programmes. She also contributes articles and reviews to many popular magazines and journals, including History Today, BBC History, New Scientist, Nature and the Times Literary SupplementHer new book is Erasmus Darwin.

Why history of science?
I read physics at university, but half-way through the course I realised that had been a big mistake. Although I relished the intellectual challenge, I was bored by the long hours spent lining up recalcitrant instruments in dusty laboratories. Why was nobody encouraging us to think about the big questions – What is gravity? Does quantum mechani…

The Idea of the Brain: Matthew Cobb *****

Matthew Cobb is one of those people that you can’t help but admire but also secretly hate just a little bit for being so awesome. He is professor for zoology at the University of Manchester with a sizable teaching load that he apparently masters with consummate skill. He’s a scientific researcher, who researches the sense of smell of fruit fly maggots; I kid you not!  He’s also an attentive and loving family father but he still finds time and energy to write brilliant history of science books, three to date. His first, The Egg and Sperm Race, describes the search for the secret of human reproduction in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and is one of my favourite history of science books, on the period. His second, Life’s Greatest Secret is a monster, both in scope and detail, description of the hunt to decipher the structure and function of DNA that along the way demolishes a whole boatload of modern history of science myths. The most recent, and the subject of this review, is

The Search for Life on Mars - Elizabeth Howell and Nicholas Booth ***

From the book’s enticing subtitle, ‘The Greatest Scientific Detective Story of All Time’, I was expecting something rather different. I thought the authors would kick off by introducing the suspects (the various forms life might take on Mars, either now or in the past) and the kind of telltale traces they might leave, followed by a chronological account of the detectives (i.e. scientists) searching for those traces, ruling out certain suspects and focusing on others, turning up unexpected new clues, and so on. But the book is nothing like that. Continuing with the fiction analogy, this isn’t a novel so much as a collection of short stories – eleven self-contained chapters, each with its own set of protagonists, suspects and clues.

Some of the chapters work better than others. I found the first three – which despite their early placement cover NASA’s most recent Mars missions – the most irritating. For one thing, they unfold in a way that’s at odds with the cerebral ‘detective story’ na…