I’ve spent much of 2019 in a lengthy tour of modern space opera, and it’s been very eye-opening. I’m getting ready to wrap up and turn my attention to another subgenre (YA thriller? Weird Western? SF noir? So many to choose from!), but I can squeeze in one more, I think. And that’s likely to be Michael Cobley’s Splintered Suns, since the reviews I’ve read certainly make it sound like it’s got the goods. Namely lost artifacts, narrow escapes, ancient mysteries, and — especially! — giant space monsters. Here’s a sample from the January review at The Tattooed Book Geek.
Captain Brannan Pyke of the Ship, Scarabus and his riff-raff and ragtag crew… are contracted by their employer Van Graes to steal a tracking device, the Angular Eye from the City of Cawl-Vesh on the desert planet Ong. Van Graes is a collector of ancient alien artefacts and he hopes that The Angular Eye can be used to locate the wreck of an ancient ship and the wealth of knowledge and treasure that it holds. Millennia ago, the ship, the Mighty Defender of the Arraveyne Empire was the only ship to escape the collapse of the Arraveyne Imperium. However, during the escape, the ship caught the attention of the Damaugra (a mythical sentient metal monster made of coils and tentacles). The Damaugra relentlessly chased the ship through space, damaging it beyond repair and causing it to crash on the planet Ong. Where its wreckage has remained buried and hidden in the vast desert ever since.
I’m pretending that I’m interested because of the rich backstory and powerful mythic overtones, but really I was sold the moment I read mythical sentient metal monster and tentacles. Read into that what you will.
If you’re looking for a more balanced (i.e. tentacle-free) review, here’s Eric Brown in his December wrap-up of the best new SF at The Guardian.
Michael Cobley writes vast, sprawling space opera in the wide-screen tradition of Iain M Banks, replete with mega-starships, exotic alien worlds, artfully rendered extraterrestrial species and much swashbuckling derring-do, all carried off with an up-to-the minute political sensibility. Splintered Suns (Orbit, £9.99) is a stand-alone, but set in the universe of his Humanity’s Fire trilogy, and featuring its recurring cast of characters. On the planet Ong, Captain Brannan Pyke and his crew have been hired to carry out a museum heist; they run into an old enemy, Raven Kaligari, who purloins an arcane detection device, the Angular Eye, from under their noses. What follows is a thrilling action adventure as Pyke and his cohorts track down the remains of a lost starship in Ong’s desert, rumoured to be overflowing with the treasures of a vanished alien civilisation. They must also pursue Kaligari in an attempt to forestall her plan to unlock an ancient nano-horror that threatens the galaxy. Splintered Suns is a pageturner with a high-octane sense of wonder, full of gloriously described technology and fabulous settings.
Splintered Suns was published by Orbit on December 4, 2018. It is 483 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Steve Stone. My copy includes Chapter One of both Alex’s White’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe (16 pages) and Rob Boffard’s Adrift (14 pages).
See all our recent New Treasures here.