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Book Review

Book Cover

The Burning Dark


Author: Adam Christopher
Publisher: Titan Books
RRP: £7.99
ISBN: 978 1 78329 201 1
Publication Date: 25 March 2014

The war against the encroaching machine spiders is not going well, but sometimes human ingenuity can still carry a victory. So when Ida’s actions saves a whole planet and takes out a spider mother ship there should be cause for celebration. Prematurely retired, due to an injury he sustained, Ida is sent to oversee the deconstruction of a space station, which had originally been built to study the strange properties of the nearby star. What he finds is that his actions have been erased from the record and that the station holds nothing but death...

The Burning Dark (344 pages) is a new science fiction novel by Adam Christopher.

Honestly, I didn’t like the story at the beginning; I couldn’t agree that a man who resorted to profanity had either the intellectual acumen or emotional control to be put in charge of a small fleet. It’s a bit of a jarring experience, but one which disappears pretty quickly, as if Christopher had realised that if his main character swore that much through the rest of the novel, he would lose some of his potential readers.

There are many elements here which resonate with other books, Lem’s Solaris, especially. Something very strange and potentially dangerous is happening aboard the station and it all seems to be tied into the local sun. It is a star whose light purports to scramble communications and get inside of the heads of anyone who looks at it too long.

Because his exploits have not reached the station, so the crew believe he lied about his heroics, Ida is met with almost universal distrust and dislike. Although, when he takes his complaints to the serving senior officer, he seems strangely either to want to brush them under the carpet or blame Ida in some way. Thankfully Ida is not alone and makes friends with Izanami, the station's neurotherapist. What Christopher has constructed here is the equivalent of the haunted house in space. Each of the main characters hides a secret, a secret which unknowingly, makes them vulnerable to what has moved into the station.

Christopher has decided not to go down the Alien route of having a vicious alien offing the crew with great descriptions of its gnashing jaws; rather he plays on an audience fear of the unseen and the unknown. A good writer knows that readers will dig into the depths of their own twisted psyches to produce something personal and far more frightening as a threat.

The book is told from various perspectives, but we spend most of our time with Ida, as the crew start to realise that what is happening on the station is not just interference from the nearby sun or the problems of taking a station apart whilst still living on it. This works well, but whether you like the book as a whole will depend on whether you buy into the ending. For myself, it felt rushed and I would have had a preference for the book to end with some of its enigma intact, rather than succeeding in tying up most of the stories loose ends.


Charles Packer

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