I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from the publishers through Netgalley.
After a five year sabbatical following the tragic death of his wife and fellow agent Alysha, Keon Rause returns to the distant colony world of Magenta to resume service with the Magentan Intelligence Service. With him he brings an artificial recreation of his wife’s personality, a simulacrum built from every digital trace she left behind. She has been constructed with one purpose – to discover the truth behind her own death – but Keon’s relationship with her has grown into something more, something frighteningly dependent, something that verges on love.
Cashing in old favours, Keon uses his return to the Service to take on a series of cases that allow him and the artificial Alysha to piece together his wife’s last days. His investigations lead him inexorably along the same paths Alysha followed five years earlier, to a sinister and deadly group with an unhealthy fascination for the unknowable alien Masters; but as the wider world of Magenta is threatened with an imminent crisis, Keon finds himself in a dilemma: do his duty and stand with his team to expose a villainous crime, or sacrifice them all for the truth about his wife?
From Darkest Skies is a science-fiction thriller that follows our main character Keon Rause, as he is sent back to his home world of Magenta where he must face his past and try to make a new life for himself. However, his past always haunts him thanks to the shell of his wife he created following her untimely death. As he falls back into the role he previously held within the intelligence service of Magenta, Keon can’t help but try and find out the truth behind his wife’s death in order to understand her actions.
I first heard about this novel not long after completing Westworld, a concept that this novel has been compared to. Though I can see the similarities with the shell of Keon’s wife, I wouldn’t make a direct comparison between the two. That isn’t to say that this novel isn’t something you should read – you really should! If you’re a fan, like myself, of science-fiction that focuses primarily on the characters as opposed to the technology, then this is one for you.
Following my love of Becky Chambers science-fiction series (you all know it), I’ve found my love for character-drive science fiction, and this is no exception. Sam Peters thrusts you into Keon’s life bringing together all his hurt and love surrounding his dead wife Alysha. But, not only does Peters really know how to create flawed characters that are full of life and personality, he knows how to weave in the world-building and the technicalities of technological science-fiction without it seeming imposing or like you have been buried under a pile of information.
Keon, our main character, is a man who has become flawed by the death of his wife. Unable to move past her death, he has spent a lot of money to illegally create a shell that an AI of his wife can inhabit in order to communicate and have some resemblance of his previous life. Peters keeps Keon’s love alive throughout the novel, with each new thread of his investigation becoming somehow linked and helping Keon get ever closer to the truth of her death, and why she was where she was at the time. It is clear that Keon feels some sort of guilt towards her death in his inability to understand her mindset at the time, and this is something that travels with him right through to the bitter end.
From Darkest Skies is a novel that flows brilliantly with pacing, writing style, and overall structure. The world of Magenta and the politics of this society are easily understandable and I loved the array of cultures that Peters brings together. Our main group of characters are a mixture of Earthers and Magentans with different belief systems, and altogether different personalities. In particular, I really enjoyed the character of Rangesh who came across as flighty in his thought processes, but surprisingly smart behind this demeanour. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and I truly hope that I can go back to this world someday as I felt like there was some unfinished business towards the end of the novel.