Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Book Review: The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

Pros: interesting characters

Cons: slow moving, unsatisfactory explanations, ending was a let down

Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland, hero of the battle of Tau Retore against the Spiders, is completing his last duty before retiring from the Fleet.  He’s overseeing the deconstruction of the space station U-Star Coast City, which orbits an unusual purple sun.  But things aren’t right on the station.  The crew haven’t heard of the battle of Tau Retore, interference from the sun is disrupting communications with Fleet Command, and people are starting to see and hear things that aren’t there.

I found this book really slow.  While the mystery of whether or not Ida is lying about his hero status is kind of interesting, the book takes its time getting to the real mystery of what’s up with the sun and the visions and the voices.  

I liked Ida as a character.  His confusion in the face of the missing files and his questioning of his own memories was really interesting.  Serra was also interesting, though I was disappointed that nothing was explained concerning her psi abilities.  I waffled on Carter, liking him at times and disliking him at others.  I did, however find his black ops past horrifying when it was revealed.

One of the plot twists was very obvious and I was annoyed the characters didn’t figure it out earlier.

While there are minor horror elements that show up towards the end, they’re not particularly scary.  And the long stretches between strange happenings means any tension generated has left by the time something new comes up. 

The last 50 pages or so were quick to read, but by this point the explanations offered didn’t clarify things as well as I’d have liked and I found the climax a real let down.


First off, I was very disappointed that there was no finale scene from Ida’s point of view.  Seeing the demise of the sun from the shuttle didn’t have the impact that Ida’s POV would have had as he helped pilot the spider in.  Similarly, I would have loved a scene at the end from Serra’s POV when she was using her psi powers.  Since they were never really used elsewhere in the book they didn’t feel real at the end, and all her moans and collapsing didn’t help me feel any tension at the fear of her failing because I didn’t understand the level of difficulty she faced.

I was left with a lot of questions.  The most glaring is: How did the Fleet Command keep news of the Tau Retore battle quiet.  It was a victory.  People talk.  Soldiers write their families, saying they’re alive - and they won.  The people from the planet who were evacuated would have talked.  I found it easier to believe that Ida was insane than I did that a large number of people didn’t mention this battle.  Similarly, if Ida’s so special as a captain that he was denied promotions so he could be kept on the front lines, how is his name unknown?  Well, maybe that’s understandable, given how many captains the fleet must have.

I rally didn’t understand why the principle characters weren’t taken right away.  If they had to agree to come when their dead relatives spoke to them it implies that whole groups of soldiers all agreed at the same time, which I find hard to believe.  It seemed like Izanami could take people she wanted, so why not the special ones who were specifically sent to her?

This question bothered me too:  If the fleet had to send a piece of spider tech to Izanami so she could study it, why did they think she could defeat them?  All they know about her is that she needs thousands of HUMAN souls to regain her strength and that she likes to eat HUMAN souls.  What made them think she’d help them rather than just eat humans when she’s free?  And did they really mean to free her with no plan of containing her later? 

Speaking of the spider, we’re told so little about them that I was surprised that the spider and Ida were vaporized at the end.  My initial thought when he decided to go in it was that it was a suicide mission, but then I thought, this is what the spiders do, surely they have some way of surviving their own main mode of attack.  But no.  Apparently not.

And how is Izanami alive?  Is it because she started as an entity from subspace?  How did she get to Earth in the first place (I know she arrived in an asteroid, but how did that asteroid become imbued with her essence/life force)?  What happened to the others of her kind who invaded Earth with her?  Why did her husband lock her away when he found her echo in the hellspace?  Did he know she was now evil?  Wasn’t she eating human souls when she was on Earth?  How did she (and the others of her kind) not depopulate the planet given her voracious appetite?  Is her husband also still alive somewhere?  

(The Japanese myth of Izanagi and Izanami explains why her husband traps her in the land of the dead, though I wonder why I had to look the legend up on wikipedia to understand part of the backstory of this novel.)

No comments: