Book Review: Chasing Solance, Lost Solace Book 2, Karl Drinkwater
Science Fiction: Chasing Solance, Karl Drinkwater
Opal and her ship, the sentient AI now named Athene, barely survived their encounter with the “Lost Ship.” Still, their mission continues and they seek another lost ship, hoping to find there the opportunity to rescue Opal’s missing sister, Clarissa. Despite leaving many indications that they were killed, Opal and Athene are pursued by an agent of the insidious IFS, the military intelligence arm that Opal stole Athene from. This agent, a ruthless assassin, is aided by her own ship, another sentient AI. Faced with enemies both familiar and alien, Opal and Athene may find their mission, and their lives, ended before they ever learn the fate of Clarissa.
Drinkwater does an extraordinary job of exploring the “other” in his books. Admittedly, none of us knows what an alien intelligence would be like. Would a sentient AI develop a sense of humor? Would a crystalline entity struggle with syllables? Would beings who measure their lifespans in millennia be compassionate? We have no way of knowing, but with his imagination Drinkwater explores alien intelligence in ways that feel distinctly different than the humans in the story.
Opal is a fascinating protagonist. Military trained, she is reluctant to take life unnecessarily. When the need arises, though, she is decisive and efficient. Her relationship with Athene is constantly evolving, especially as Athene evolves and develops with her own personality. Athene is a sentient AI, but she also is shaped profoundly by her relationship to and connection with Opal. As the story unfolds the two grow into an almost symbiotic relationship, and when either is forced to survive without the other, the sense of loss is palpable. Both Opal and Athene are strong and self-sufficient, but they are stronger together and they both acknowledge that fact.
The universe of Chasing Solace, or perhaps I should say the multiverse, is dark and forbidding. Racial disparities continue to plague humanity. A harsh militaristic government dominates. Poverty abounds, along with prejudice and oppression. Unlike some science fiction writers who imagine we leave those troubles behind us, Drinkwater’s future relies upon our basic character as a species continuing to manifest its most unpleasant aspects. I wish, as a human, that I could see more hope in the future. Unfortunately, as an observer of the present, I too wonder whether the future shows societal evolution or devolution.
Chasing Solace is not an unremittingly dark view of the universe, though. It is a universe where one individual–with the help of her AI friend–can make a difference. People matter, choices define us, and ultimately the future is what we make of it ourselves.
I want to thank blog tour organizer Anne Cater and author Karl Drinkwater for our copy of both Chasing Solace and its predecessor Lost Solace. Although because of the constraints of time and blog tour deadlines we will be publishing reviews out of sequence, we recommend reading the books in the order they were written, as the two stories are tightly intertwined.
Book Review: Chasing Solance, Karl Drinkwater