Loki’s Ring by Stina Leicht (book review).

  ‘Loki’s Ring’ by Stina Leicht is a feminist action-packed space opera with an all too human story at its heart.

Gita Chithra has one deep regret: she could not have saved everyone and every-AI on a search and rescue mission to contain the Halo Generator around the black hole Beta-X45J from exploding and destroying the local star system. It led to the break-up of the rest of crew, half siding with her and the other half siding with Karter. Gita tries over and over again in virtual reality to find out solution. Every time the sentient Artificial General Intelligences (AGIs), Miranda and Ferdinand perish.

She takes their deaths very hard because she partnered twice with an AGI to help them develop their own personality. It’s like a very long pregnancy with the AGI being housed inside an installation in the brain. Now, one of them, Ri, has reached across the voids asking for help. The crew on her ship are sick and their med-bots are not working. She, being an AGI, says she can self-quarantine in a stasis pod. Only after the link has gone dead does Gita’s ship’s AGI identify the transmission came from within the Norton Independent Alliance (NIA) where AGIs are illegal. Ri was on a spying mission for Terran Republic of Worlds (TRW). Worse the transmission came from Loki’s Ring, a ring world built by a long gone ancient civilisation, which may hide all sorts of secrets and nasties.

Gita should not go there, but it is her AGI daughter calling for her help and she is an experienced search and rescue captain. Who else would risk it?

This starts a cascade of events where the stakes get ever higher. Yes, we get the expected battle between the TRW and NIA, but this is not the culmination of the novel.

  ‘Loki’s Ring’ packs a punch with so many themes from space opera to treating the mentally challenged. It goes at breakneck speed leaving the reader trying to catch their breath. It has to, to cover everything. The real strength of this novel is how Leicht interconnects all these themes into a cohesive whole.

This comes at a price. There are five point of view characters: Gita, Karter, Ri, Aggie and Liv. The reader cannot really settle down to enjoy their depth of character even of Gita. Despite this, when Leicht does slow down the pace, there are some wonderful descriptions and poignant moments.

These civilisations are too advanced to question the technological capability that Leicht gives them. She is right about most of the physics, including very low frequency waves travelling through interstellar space. However, I have severe doubts about whether Karter can register such sound vibrations ‘in her bones and teeth’. It assumes her spaceship has somehow condensed these vibrations drastically. This minor niggle, annoying though it is, does not affect the story or the effect of that particular passage.

Overall, ‘Loki’s Ring’ is cornucopia of science fictional themes brought together by an emotional storyline.

Rosie Oliver

April 2023

(pub: Saga Press/Simon & Schuster, 2023. 502 pages paperback. Price: £16.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-9821-7065-3)

check out website: www.flametreepress.com

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