By C. A. Higgins
Before we begin this review: Please, if you have not read “Lightless,” the first novel in this series, go do so now. This review will contain spoilers of that novel, and perhaps even some mild spoilers for this one, though I will try mightily to minimize them.
We’ll start with Parental Advisories for parents, then a brief summary, some difficult portions for me (and those could be simply due to the density of my brain), concluding with a recommendation.
Profanity: Not much. An f-bomb in the beginning, another at the end, maybe one in the middle. Not enough to raise too many warnings.
Violence: A lot, but the themes herein are a violent revolution spanning many planets and moons. Also some kind of cruel psychosis, so be warned that violence is part and parcel of this novel. There is an especially gory and extended scene at the end, and all I can say about it is that it amps up the terror and horror of part of the surprise ending.
This story vacillates back and forth between two different plot lines. One part (guesstimate 35%) following the interactions between Althea and her surprise AI ship Ananke who has awakened into sentience. Most of this novel follows the rebellion against the System, an interplanetary tyranny, led by the Mallt-y-Nos, Constance.
The rebellion continues through far off moons to Mars, Venus, Mercury and back to some of them but incorporating Jupiter and Saturn to mop up returning System inclined opportunistic warlords, endeavoring to assure freedom by violence. Allies betray Constance, while she gains or losses other allies.
Meanwhile Althea tries both to raise and protect her AI child. The author pulls off a pretty neat trick here: the ship is called the Ananke while the AI person is simply called Ananke. I tried hard to catch any inconsistencies here (because I can be that kind of jerk sometimes), but the only time could have gone either way. Kudos to the author!
The mood aboard the Ananke remains delightfully claustrophobic, while the revolution sprawls system-wide, diluting the tension in that struggle. Constance has to face a reality more akin to Ahab and Moby Dick, while Althea deals with a sentient glorified computer that has no comprehension of human morality.
An auxiliary teenage girl named Marisol proves to be the humane advisor to Constance and her revolution, while the (in my opinion) autistic Althea proves incapable of teaching her AI daughter basic moral concepts. The dichotomy is interesting to meditate on.
All of my difficulties with this novel are with the system-sprawling revolution portions. The Ananke/Althea portions are brilliant. Even the grotesque surgery scene at the end is necessary. This is an adult novel that is not squeamish about any kind of violence.
There is a scene early on in which Constance gives a hand gun to a ten-year old girl stuck in the bombed out rubble of her war torn city so she can protect herself. The instructions given are minimal – safety off, point, pull trigger – and I wondered if this was on purpose. Certainly a young girl should be warned about recoil, and/or blowback. No such warnings are given. Is that unawareness on the author’s part, or symptomatic of Constance’s slide from reality?
Another difficulty for me was the ease of moving fleets of ships from planet or moon to other bodies in our solar system. Late in the novel a relativistic drive is briefly mentioned as the means to travel vast distances in days instead of months, but no further explanation is offered. I googled the concept and found that such a thing is improbable and hotly debated. That doesn’t spoil it for me, but the lack of explanation does. I don’t criticize books that use FTL drives, even though most scientists consider them impossible. But an earlier notice would have removed the confusion earlier.
Along these same lines, the convenient lining up of the planets on one side of the Sun for easy access destroys any hope of suspending my disbelief. That just isn’t realistic.
Lastly, how Constance can rid all the planets and moons of the dreaded System without some idea of a replacement governmental system is amazingly short-sighted. She never really gives thought to anything beyond destroying the System.
So, as a result, the story flagged for me so much that I went into “skimving” mode around page 220 of 290. “Skimving” is a copyrighted and trademarked method of reading quickly, and it’s all mine, so don’t try to use it without permission!
But, I had to drop into normal reading by page 270 because the ending goes off the HOOK! On both sides of this story!
Read this book. Get the sense, get the flavor, endure until the end. You might like the bits that bored me. But the ending of both parts are nigh unforgettable, and well worth the effort.
Something puzzles me: Why exactly is this titled “Supernova?” Is it a reference to Althea, Ananke, Constance, the rebellion? What exactly is that supernova-like thing that Constance sees at the end?
I have a hunch, but not much evidence to support it. Regardless, another installment would be welcome.
25 August 2016