First contact was not supposed to be like this. The first intelligent species to encounter Mankind attacked without warning and swarmed locust-like through the solar system. Merciless. Relentless. Unstoppable. With little hope of halting the savage invasion, Earth's last, desperate roll of the dice was to send out three colony ships, seeds of Earth, to different parts of the galaxy. Earth may perish but the human race would live on ...somewhere.
150 years later, the human colony on the planet Darien has established a new world for Humanity and forged a peaceful relationship with the planet's indigenous race, the scholarly, enigmatic Uvovo. But there are secrets buried beneath the surface of Darien's forest moon. Secrets that go back to an apocalyptic battle fought between ancient forerunner races at the dawn of galactic civilisation...
For me, this book had one of the biggest recommendations I could ask for - high praise from Iain M. Banks plastered right across it's front cover. Since I am an avid fan of Banks' work, this was like a neon sign screaming "Very unlikely to disappoint"... which, as it turned out, was pretty much bang on. Though I admit I still prefer my sci-fi rather heavy on the SCI side of things, there was enough of that in this tale to keep me reading, long enough to find the seeds of some amazing stuff yet to come, and some amazing ideas relating to the universe, it's past, future, and the realm in which it is embedded... real funky physics stuff that is explained in a way that appealed strongly to the science buff in me, but would be still quite acceptable to non-science buffs too... feeling almost 'fantasy' in it's descriptions.
Because the story tries to bring together the leading edges of three sub-plots, things can become more than a little confusing in places,but if you stick with it you will find that it all starts to cohere into a single main plot - the one that you started out with on a small arboreal moon orbiting a near-dead world that once hosted a multitude of life and a globe-spanning collective consciousness. This, it turns out, is a very key point that comes back over and over as the story unfolds... and eventually leads to something amazing, although the character it happens to doesn't seem to understand, let alone appreciate, the situation he is going through.
I found myself fascinated by the galaxy-spanning plot - all revolving around humans who fled Earth during a terrible war... more a genocidal extinction really... and ended up as refugees drifting on the galactic tides... true seeds of earth, like dandelion seeds in a storm. Involving a stunning array of aliens - organic, artificial, energy-based and even post-physical - this tale really had every checkbox ticked... and I just hope that Cobley doesn't get carried away in book 2 and add even more... because seriously I doubt the plot could carry more than it currently does. Like an African Swallow carrying a coconut, it's on the verge of falling over from having too much hanging off it.
Overall, I am very keen to see what unfolds in the next instalment, as this book ended with a cliffhanger to rival the best I have seen in any book or movie worth spending time on. I am especially keen to read more about the deeper layers of reality, and the compressed 'leftover universes'... that concept really blew my mind!
Random listing from 'Books'...
Margaret (Cuckoo) Clarke recently had a brief stay in a mental institution following an emotional breakdown, but she is turning over a new leaf with her 'Operation Happiness'. She is determined to beat down the bad vibes of the Haters, the Terror Teachers, and all of the trials and tribulations of high school by writing and drawing in her diary. And when life gets really tough, she works through her own moments of uncertainty through imaginary conversations with her favorite literary characters.
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