The Dark Reaches - Kristin Landon
This novel picks up around two years after the end of THE COLD MINDS. If you haven’t read that, or its predecessor, THE HIDDEN WORLDS, this review contains spoilers. And you’ve missed some truly great books.
The nanotech called The Cold Minds attacked Earth centuries ago, destroying all human life. Scattered throughout The Hidden Worlds, humanity thought it was safe. The Line, Pilots who jealously guarded the secrets and means of flight – and therefore, the power – repeatedly told the worlds that they were safe. But the Line was wrong, and paid the ultimate price. A central world fell to the infesting nanobots, and now everyone knows the truth: they’re back, and it’s only a matter of time.
Once a disgraced Pilot, Iain sen Paolo taught his love, Linnea Kiaho to pilot in otherspace. It takes nerve and a natural ability. She’s the first non-Line pilot in centuries, and possibly the first woman pilot in memory. More and more, Linnea considers otherspace her ‘real’ home. She dreams about it constantly; always wishing she were piloting. Iain knows these signs. It happens to some pilots, and it’s madness. He’s worried about Linnea, but, true to stubborn form, she won’t quit flying. And it’s not like there are pilots to spare. Constant pickets must be flown around inhabited worlds; scouting parties must visit the far-flung worlds and report on their status. There are barely enough pilots to do that, since the last, catastrophic battle with The Cold Mind.
Linnea is torn. On some level, she recognizes the dangers of wanting to exist solely in otherspace, but, cast out from her home planet and something of an oddity, she feels best there. She sees vistas, jungles, places she’s never seen in real space. Then she hears the plea: help us before it’s too late. During the past few years, Cold Mind ships were captured. The ‘pilots’ were destroyed humans who were clearly modified by the machines to fly the ships. Linnea begins to believe that, centuries ago, there were humans left on Earth, contrary to the heroic tales of the Line Pilots. If some of them survived for centuries, they may hold the key to defeating the Cold Minds and saving the rest of humanity.
This series is science fiction at its best. Obviously set in the future, the books are almost wholly character-driven. The various characters are quite recognizable. There are those who wish to preserve whatever legacy the Line has, no matter the cost. Others who refuse to believe that the human race will fall to machines. There are those who put their own petty self-interests above all else. No matter how far in the future, these individuals are sadly realistic. Linnea is a strong female character. She’s flawed, as is Iain, but she’s driven to do all she can to save her people, no matter what they feel about her.
If possible, I recommend reading all three books in the series. If not, it’s still very easy to pick up the story at this point. The author manages to unobtrusively insert background and character information during the first few chapters. While the characterization is the standout, there’s plenty of action and danger, keeping the story moving at a good clip. Clearly, this is an author to watch.
Rating: 8 ½