Book Review: The Burning Dark

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher, and I’ve just finished reading it.

Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland, called Ida, was a hero. While he was captain, he led a fleet into battle against the spiders, AIs than can eat planets, and even stars. And, against all odds, he won the battle. Now, left with an achy robotic knee as a memento of the battle, Ida has been sent to oversee the last stages of the disassembling of the U-Star Coast City, a Fleet space station. He doesn’t know why he’s been sent to the station, and neither do the remaining crew members, none of whom have heard of his exploits, which should be legend, even in this backwater system. Ida is very frustrated by these events.

The U-Star Coast city sits in the same solar system as the star Shadow. That’s why it was put here in the first place–to study the strange, potentially deadly, purple star. The light from the star begins to mess with Ida almost as soon as he is in the system, and soon it shuts down the standard lightspeed communications, and appears to be playing havoc with the station’s internal systems, particularly those for lighting and atmosphere. This gives the station an eerie feel, and sets almost everyone, who, to the last man, want to be done with this job and gone, on edge.

Cut off from the rest of the galaxy, with the crew beginning to hate him, Ida turns to his hobbies, creating a radio that he quickly uses to listen to illegal frequencies. The only problem is, he doesn’t know why they’re illegal. When he finds a hypnotizing distress call echoing on one of the frequencies, he becomes obsessed with the origin. Things just get stranger from there, as crew start to disappear, and the mysteries, such as the location of the station’s commandant, seem to multiply.

It took me nearly a month to read this book, but that’s my fault. I simply haven’t had much time to read lately. I enjoyed the book. It’s not my usual fare; I’m much more into fantasy than sci-fi, and longer rather than shorter books (At 336 pages, this is by no means a short book. I’m just used to 900+). Never the less, I enjoyed this one. It proves that good writing transcends genres, and can be enjoyed regardless of what your tastes are.

This book is not without its flaws, though. The characters often feel one dimensional; every hobby and bit of back-story that I can remember is only there because it serves the plot in some way, and I don’t know anything about the characters apart from that.

The characters can also be dense, sometimes. There were parts of the book where I was frustrated at the characters because I had realized something of what was going on, and the characters did not for another fifty or hundred pages. However, much of this may have been because of the way the book jumps from viewpoint to viewpoint, including teaser viewpoints that show some of what is going on behind the scenes, or something that happened years ago that will be instrumental to the plot in a few chapters.

However, the characters, despite their flaws, are also convincingly real. While I would have loved to see more back story and quirks from them, I thought they were psychologically well done. Not only do they have an authentic gritty feel to them, the sense of impending despair that sets in as the star’s light affects them, and other events happen in the second half of the book, is very convincing. There were several times, when I stopped reading, that I had to remind myself that it was the characters in mental anguish, not myself, and that I needed to relax. I love it when a book can immerse me so fully in the character’s mentalities that I have to remind myself that I’m not them.

The pacing of the book seemed a hair slow, but keep in mind, I read it over the course of the month, and I’m used to reading 1000+ page books in 3 days. Given the length of the book, and the amount of action, I’m going to say this was a misperception on my part. I’m guessing that if I’d read this book at my normal pace, and it had taken me a day, or at most two, then I would have thought it very quickly paced. The tension throughout is constant, and there aren’t dull moments. However, because of the number of mysteries and amount of confusion, I would recommend against reading too hastily, and instead reading a little more carefully.

The ending was satisfying and well fore-shadowed, with no deus-ex-machina or other surprises that can ruin endings. I liked it, and felt that it held the book together well, making the read worth it.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 of 5 stars, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading, if you can handle the darker side of things, as the book is quite dark. Also, a content warning: Lots of swearing, and while the descriptions not graphic, there is at least implied sex/nudity.

The Burning Dark will be out in March of 2014 (Sorry to tease you so far ahead of time.) from Tor. Links:

Amazon

Goodreads

Adam Christopher

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