Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"From Darkest Skies"

Sam Peters is a mathematician, part-time gentle-person adventurer and occasional screenwriter who has seen faces glaze over at the words ‘science fiction’ once too often. His inspirations include Dennis Potter, Mary Doria Russell, Lynda La Plante, Neal Stephenson, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. He has more hopes than regrets, more cats than children, watches a lot of violent contact sport and is an unrepentant closet goth.

Peters applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, From Darkest Skies, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Hale Wavey slips unseen through the corridors of the Tesseract. There are surveillance cameras everywhere here in the heart of the Magenta Investigation Bureau, but Hale Wavey doesn’t worry about that because Hale Wavey is wearing a Masters’ skin-suit stolen from the Gibraltar Tech-Fair three months ago. Invisibility has its limitations, like everything else, but it’s good enough for this.

Hale’s Servant cracks the access codes for the low-security level. He lets the suit do its work for the rest, tailgating the night patrols as they do their rounds, meticulously checking every room and so taking him anywhere and everywhere he could want to go. When they reach the secure zones they work in teams of three with a pair of drones watching over them, feeding back to the security citadel which towers over the entrance to the Tesseract, the only part of the building that rises more than a single storey above the ground. The deep secure bunkers will be a problem, if ever Hale needs to go where the real secrets are kept, but today’s task is a simple one.
So begins page 69 of From Darkest Skies.

Agent Keon Rause is an investigator on Magenta, a backwater colony world. As the story starts, he’s looking into the mysterious death of a minor celebrity from an apparent overdose, but that’s not where his real attention lies: Five years ago, Keon’s wife Alysha, a fellow investigator, was killed in an apparently random terrorist attack; the perpetrator has been caught and tried but Keon has never shaken the idea that there was more to it than was uncovered at the time. In trying to cope with his grief, Keon has built an artificial intelligence simulation of his dead wife, a walking talking copy of Alysha almost indistinguishable from the real thing whom he calls Liss. Almost indistinguishable, but not quite.

The story I set out to write is half SF conspiracy thriller, half SF love story and all with a noir feel. Quietly and under the radar, Keon is trying to find out what really happened to his wife while Liss is trying to find out who this woman she’s supposed to be really was under the surface. As they peel back the layers of mystery surrounding both Alysha and Magenta’s history and the lines between what is human and what isn’t grow ever more blurred, the more they both have to question both what they are to each other and how well either of them truly know the real Alysha. Underneath it all, the theme of From Darkest Skies is about not knowing the world around you as well as you think.

We’ve never met Hale Wavey before page 69, nor will we meet him again after he submerges a few pages later. He ghosts into the narrative and ghosts out again leaving only questions. He has nothing much to do with either of the mysteries Keon is trying to solve and sheds no light on Keon’s relationship with either Liss or Alysha. But as a metaphor for the story as a whole? Yeah, it works.
Visit Sam Peters's website.

--Marshal Zeringue