The Stark Divide (Liminal Sky book 1) by J. Scot Coatsworth (book review)

November 28, 2017 | By | Reply More

Earth is becoming inhabitable, so the future of humankind depends on generation-ships, that will take humans to a new planet, where they can start again with a new world. Generation ships are made with biological parts, with minds that combine biological parts with artificial intelligence, with which the humans interact. This story, ‘The Stark Divide’, follows the journey of Forever, one of the generation-ships, from birth through three generations of human life. What will life be like for humans on a generation-ship? Can humans survive in space?

The most interesting part of this book was the fact that it looked at the concept of futuristic technology in a new way. Rather than just the artificial intelligence we are accustomed to in Science Fiction, in this book, there are actually biological minds that can think and feel and that control the spacecraft. They are not quite humans, but they are quite similar. Lex, the main mind in the book, is one of the view point characters and its interesting getting a glimpse in to the world of a creature who very much straddles the line between human and computer. Lex goes through some fairly interesting developments, that I can’t talk about in much detail otherwise that would spoil the plot, but I found her the most interesting character. I would have liked her to have more page time because, though she is a view point character throughout the novel, her sections are very small.

The world-building was also pretty cool. Forever interestingly is able to reproduce some of Earth’s natural beauty. For example, the humans on Forever grow fruit like that on Earth. It was wonderful to read descriptions of fruit by someone who very obviously felt very dearly about it. Forever herself at large was always described very beautifully.

As far as tales of humans going to space go, this one certainly contained a lot of hope. The book is divided in to three main sections. Each section has fairly separate plot and, while there are a few of the older characters that are in it throughout, each section primarily follows a generation while they are in early adulthood. I liked this in the sense that the reader was able to follow the generation-ship’s journey from infancy to physically growing and expanding in to a fairly large ship. It should be noted that the ship did very literally grow due to its biological parts, which again I thought was a really fascinating concept.

However, I didn’t like the structure overall. I found the book was either quite disengaging or occasionally there were a few parts that were really, really exciting and fast-paced and I couldn’t get through it quick enough, but there was not much in-between. I also didn’t like the fact that we were cut so suddenly from one timeline to another, I found that the bits I was enjoying were usually near the end of each section and then that enjoyment was short lived because we would be cut to another timeline. The book almost had three climaxes, it was very much like three novellas in one book. Coatsworth is extremely good at writing climaxes, but I did find the remainder of the book quite slow.

In terms of characterisation, it was interesting to follow three generations and see how some of the characters who were in the first generation had changed by the end. It was also quite cool having a cast of characters that spread across three generations. However, because characters were only the protagonists of the narrative for a third of the book, the characterisation was very rushed because of time constraint. With some of the characters, the relationships worked fairly well, as it was obvious from the way they interacted that their relationships had developed in off page time, however there was one relationship in particular where the characters met and had fallen in love about half an hour later, which just seemed unrealistic.

I think the book would have benefited from being split in to a trilogy, with each sub-section further explored, having more plot points and exploring the characters in more depth. I think if it was done right, it would solve most of the problems I had with it.

Overall, I do think conceptually, it is a fairly interesting exploration of how humans could live in space that deviated from the usual ideas of artificial intelligence, while containing fantastic world- building. However, I felt that the plot and characterisation could have been better. If you like books about space or are interested in exploring the way humans interact with computerised beings, this may be a book you could pick up.

Rebecca Thorne

November 2017

(pub: DSP Publications. 284 page paperback. Price: £13.99 (UK). ISBN-13: 978-1-63533-832-4. Ebook: 297 page kindle ebook. Price: £ 5.49 (UK). ASIN: B074G2NJP6)

check out websites: www.dsppublications.com/books/the-stark-divide-by-j-scott-coatsworth-415-b and www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Category: Books, Scifi

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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