The line was drawn a great many years ago, defining the separation between human and Xre space and for nearly 70 years this has been observed and respected with no cause for concern. But now several reconnaissance drones have disappeared in this area. There isn’t much it could be other than a Xre ship that has crossed the line.
Captain Susan Kamala and her crew of the Ansari are directed to investigate and resolve the issue. Kamala knows that a resolution should be thorough, but at the same time, she should do whatever she can to avoid creating a full-fledged war.
The investigation leads to a tense encounter and a new understanding (and respect?) of other life forms.
I am typically not a fan of ‘military’ science fiction and I have seen that label applied to this book, but I did not find this to fall typically into that category. For me, this was a nice combination of military scifi and space opera. I’m glad I gave this a chance based on my previous readings of author Patrick Tomlinson’s books.
The book is told from multiple perspectives, including the aliens. I found this to be one of the more fun aspects of the book – getting a look at human behavior from an outsider’s point of view (a favorite moment being the responses to shared farewell salutes).
The story is pretty straightforward – no real side plots to speak of. However, Tomlinson here is creating, appropriately, a set of characters that we quickly become attached to. The side plots then are the separate stories for the individuals.
I wrote “appropriately” in the previous paragraph because I am often reminded of something that Theodore Sturgeon once said. During a Q&A at a small convention I attended, someone asked, “Other than length, what is the difference between a short story and a novel?” Sturgeon thought for a moment and said, “A short story is about things people do. A novel is about people who do things.” Tomlinson has definitely provided a story about people (including non-human ‘people’) who do things.
I look forward to seeing what else these people do.
Looking for a good book? In the Black by Patrick S. Tomlinson is a fun space opera where the characters drive the interest in the story.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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In the Black
author: Patrick S. Tomlinson
publisher: Tor Books
paperback, 352 pages