Title: The Stark Divide (Liminal Sky #1)
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Publisher: DSP Publications
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Page Count: 284
Reviewed by: Kristin
Heat Level: 0 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Some stories are epic.
The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.
Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.
From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.
Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.
Book One of Liminal Sky.
I’m going to be upfront here – this is not a romance. There is a small het romance and gay romantic elements, but this particular book is not a GLBTQ romance.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One is the discovery of sentient AI’s and the birth of the generation ship. Part Two is the growth and development of the generation ship and the Cities therin, and Part Three is end/beginning of a new era. Each part advances the time line by decades, which kept the entire plot moving forward without getting bogged down in minutia.
Overall premise is Earth is on the brink of disaster – climate change has irrevocably altered the landscape, the political climate has fractured states and nations, the threat of a global war is imminent. In Part One we are introduced to the shipmind/AI Dressler aka “Lex”; Jackson Hammond, the Engineer; Dr. Ava, daughter of the man who created the biological and generation seed ships; and Colin, Captain. Dr. Ava and the Captain find a fungus coming from Hammond’s crucifix jewelry is quickly killing the shuttle and the asteroid 43 Ariadne is their only hope for rescue. Hammond has to convince Dr. Ava and the Captain to save “Lex” by combining her with the seed that will eventually create a generation ship. The melding is successful and “Lex” becomes the mind of the generation ship.
They are successful but at a cost: Dr. Ava goes off to prison for killing Jackson and Colin becomes director of Transfer Station for AmSplor, the oversight body for the growing and developing generation ship.
A decade passes, and Dr. Ava returns to Transfer Station to witness the result of her creation. Alex Hammond is on the same ship to get answers to why his father died. “Lex” takes exception to Dr. Ava’s return, confronts her, and she flees. Hammond, carrying the wetware virus his father did, is told to save her.
A decade passes, and Colin has retired from Station director and Hammond is now in charge. His daughter Andy, has inherited the same ability to talk and merge directly with the ship-mind. The situation on Earth has exploded, Transfer station is hacked and its core attacked, “Lex” and her human cargo may be all that’s left of the human race.
Whew! A lot to recap without spoilers! If you like scifi, you’ll probably like this. There’s the melding of mechanical and biological to make ships which is an interesting concept, the idea of growing a generation ship from the raw materials of an asteroid is different, as long as you don’t think too hard about certain scientific aspects and the use of three parts to move the story forward was nicely executed.
Where I struggled with the book was aspects like Jackson performing mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions on Dr. Ana after a near-fatal incident space and upon reviving, she gets up and walks around. Ah…no. Big NO. If you do chest compression’s on someone you have just cracked/broke their ribs where they connect to your sternum. It’s going to hurt like a sonofabitch to move. She’s not going to be pushing anything around. I’m overlooking doing chest compression’s while in a space suit…
I also found it highly unlikely that a shuttle ship captain would be given the directorate of a space station.
I grappled with Ana and Colin being so quick to accuse Jackson of putting the ship in peril, of knocking the man out and trussing him up in his bunk without even questioning the man. But when the truth comes to light and Dr. Ana confesses, Colin is all “Well…okay then.” The emotions didn’t fit the crime.
I had a bit of a Star Wars (Episode 4) moment, when Aaron Hammond goes in search of answers regarding his father, and doesn’t like what he’s told. It was a bit reminiscent of Luke Skywalkers anguished NNnnooo echoing through the chamber. After my eyes stopped rolling, all I could think was, don’t go looking for the truth IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE IT.
My final grumble with the book was the repetitive statements – I wish there was a way to track on my e-reader every time a character said “X”, only to repeat “X” three paragraphs over because it was a lot.
Overall, despite the items above, this was an interesting read. I liked the decade jumps to bring on new characters and move the timeline forward, the concept of growing a generation ship was different (as long as you don’t think too hard of the science and timelines), and the characters were interesting.
I do feel a shout out for the cover art is a must: Aaron Anderson did a fantastic job.
I’ll close with a note – while this doesn’t end on a cliffhanger (some might debate that point), this is by no means a standalone book.