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The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

The Burning DarkPremise: Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland is a war hero ready to retire. For his last assignment he has been sent to the remote U-Star Coast City, a space station being dismantled for decommission. It rests near the strange star known as Shadow, with eerie purple light that has incalculable effects on those who look at it. The remaining crew aboard the Coast City are less than friendly, and skeptical of the Fleet Medal Cleveland wears, especially once he discovers the mission where he saved an entire planet from being destroyed by spiders has been wiped from existence in the database.

Shadow causes all sorts of electrical malfunctions and interference with communication, but its light also causes the crew to hear and see things that may or may not really be there. When Cleveland picks up radio communications on the banned subspace channels, he discovers a message from far away and long ago. With creeping shadows and malfunctioning electronics, he and the rest of the crew begin to think they are seeing ghosts. Or perhaps it’s just the negative effects from the looming purple star.

Themes: Ida Cleveland does all he can to uphold honor and respect, especially with records of his heroics being wiped from all knowledge. Nobody on board the station believes he actually earned the prestigious Fleet Medal, and because of this he feels he must prove his own valor to the rest of the crew. As a retired captain, the other soldiers don’t pay him the same respect as if he were still an officer.

Friends are hard to come by in the remote space station, especially when Cleveland is new to the crew. He befriends a medic named Izanami, but sees her only occasionally on the large station. The established crew already have their allegiances, and nobody wants to give Cleveland a chance especially with there being no record of him earning his medal. Lacking any true friends, he spends most of his time alone in his cabin listening on his piecemeal radio.

Pros: The Burning Dark is creepy, and it gets progressively creepier. Christopher made some intense characters in The Burning Dark, with the space station and the nearby star gaining personalities of their own. Everything is suspect when it comes to trusting senses or how characters perceive their surroundings, including interactions with other people aboard the Coast City. I like that there are multiple dangers all around for everybody in the enemy spiders, churning shadows, and the ever-present star Shadow and its odd purple light, all within the vacuum of space.

Cons: Without giving a spoiler, I think it was about halfway through the book (before the author gives away one important secret) that I actually figured out one of the main secrets happening on this secluded station. It doesn’t make the story less creepy or intense, but it’s the angle the story later takes that I felt could have been left more ambiguous. Thankfully, I didn’t think it went off the rails at the end, but it left me with the feeling of being set up for another book.

Recommendations: I’ve read a couple other books from Adam Christopher that I’ve really enjoyed, but I’ll say this is probably my favorite of his I’ve read to date. In The Burning Dark, he’s done a thoughtful crossover between science fiction and horror that sits firmly in either genre. The story takes an unexpected turn at the end, but manages to keep the reader on their toes. While The Burning Dark stands on its own as a story, I would gladly read another set in this universe of cyborg insects and subspace ghosts. Read at your own risk. You might find yourself jumping at shadows and hearing voices in radio static.

Adam Christopher’s website
The Burning Dark on Goodreads
Buy The Burning Dark on Amazon

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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Horror, Science Fiction

 

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Empire State by Adam Christopher

Empire State (Empire State, #1)Premise: A battle between New York’s greatest superhero and worst supervillain ends in a cataclysmic event: a tear in space that opens a rift into an alternate universe. The Empire State is similar to New York in most aspects, but there is only the island, it is the prohibition era, and it is always wartime. War ships go into the fog surrounding the Empire State to fight the Enemy, but never return.

In the Empire State, private investigator Rad Bradbury has been hired to find a missing girl, but his investigation leads him into a plot that is threatening the very existence of his world. He meets some interesting and dangerous people along the way, but he really has to rely on his wits to solve the mystery and to help him survive. With lurking airships, robots, and men in gas masks, very little makes sense. It is up to Rad to piece together the bigger mystery that he has been thrown into.

Themes: Empire State is a crime noir mystery, where Rad Bradbury is on the job searching for Sam Saturn. But his discoveries are more than just about the girl. Clues lead to questions and questions lead to people, all of which open new doors into places Rad has never before known. We are left guessing until the very end.

In his investigation, Rad quickly learns that everyone and everything is not as it appears. He can’t really trust anyone, and therefore solving the crime and saving the world becomes that much more difficult. Those he thinks he can trust might turn out to be his enemy, or vice versa. In Empire State the lines between trust, friendship, and morality are blurred.

Pros: My favorite thing about Empire State is that it is full of compelling characters. With every character having questionable morality, I found myself rooting for Rad Bradbury through the very end. In spite of his flaws, he is still honorable and just. Though there could have been more world-building and exploration in each element, I enjoyed the various genre elements mashed together: steampunk, superheroes, crime noir, and alternate universes.

Cons: There are certain things that are very difficult to do in fiction, and Empire State is infused with several that I have already mentioned. The alternate universe element is intriguing, but I felt it could have used more time set aside for explanation right from the beginning without giving anything away, especially since it is revealed on the back cover of the book. Because of these things I was confused through a good portion of the beginning, which made it seem to go slower. And the time and technology differentiation between the two worlds has almost no explanation other than “these are two separate worlds so things works differently.”

Recommendations: I read Empire State because I liked the cover and the premise, knowing that it has superheroes, crime noir drama, with steampunk elements. I was a little disappointed in cramming so many different genres into one book only because I felt like each of them could have been given a little more treatment or some of them could have been cut out to make something really great. The good thing is that the characters really started to grow on me, along with the little pocket universe. I think that Adam Christopher has created something special in Empire State. I only hope that the second book expands on the world using the strong points in this one: solid characters and a gritty setting.

Adam Christopher’s website
Empire State on Goodreads
Buy Empire State on Amazon
Download Empire State for your Kindle

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2013 in Fantasy, Mystery, Science Fiction

 

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