Friday, January 26, 2024

Book of the Month: Eyes of the Void

This review contains some mild spoilers for this series of books.

This is the first sequel to November's book of the month, Shards of Earth. I added this to my wishlist and got it for Christmas from my friend Terri. (Thank you Terri!)

I started reading it during the Christmas break and found it as compelling as the initial novel in the series. It continues the story about the deadly Architects who destroy planets and kill millions of beings in the process. 

There was a twist at the end of the first book as one of the main protagonists, Idris, the semi-mystical, partly-psychic, spaceship navigator 'Intermediary' discovered that the Architects were compelled in their destruction by some hitherto unknown greater force. A good chunk of this book is about Idris trying to work out exactly what that force is, using ancient technology left behind by a disappeared race nicknamed the Originators.

At the core of this mystery is the idea of 'unspace', a sort of unreal netherworld existing on a different plane of existence that humans and other beings can use to travel between star systems. It has its own un-reality and is the source of the Architects and their unknown master.

The author, Adrian Tchaikovsky, expands the universe he has created, with increased roles for several alien races. I liked how he makes them really alien, in terms of their culture, traditions and logic. They remain mysterious and ineffable even as they interact with the main characters in the novel. 

There is also an interesting sub-plot concerning an AI being called a Hiver and their relationship with their former owner. The Hiver has become an authority on the ruins and artefacts of the Originators and the human academic considers this stealing and plagiarism. Rows ensue, but the sub-plot reaches a deeply poignant conclusion in a scene that made me feel quite sad. 

AI or machine characters are difficult to get right, but I found the way they appear in this book very engaging. As mentioned before, these are probably the most sympathetic AI characters since the Minds and sentient drones in the Culture novels by Iain M Banks. They add an interesting layer to this series along with the well-drawn alien races. 

The plot bounces through several worlds as the main characters get pulled together towards a showdown of sorts on a particularly deadly planet. I won't describe it because that would be a spoiler but as "death worlds" go, it's an absolute doozy. 

The ending is a bit cliff-hangerey. There's a third book to come, which I think will be the final instalment. However, I reckon you could read this novel as a standalone or as the first point of entry into the storyline. The events of the previous book get referred to and explained at various points. 

I will be adding the third book to my wishlist as soon as it comes out in paperback. I'm not sure if that will be in time for my birthday...

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