Our heroine is Opal, a smart and savvy, wise-cracking ex-soldier who’s on a mission to board a Lost Ship for purposes unknown. She’s stolen a ship from the military and located the Solace on the edge of space near a collapsed neutron star. It won’t be long before the ship is pulled into the dead star’s gravity well and will be lost forever.
With the help of her stolen ship’s computer, an artificial intelligence named Clarissa, Opal boards the ship to find the answer she has been looking for. Early on we don’t even know what that is: the author’s prose is tight and succinct with little background but lots of forward motion. He keeps us on our toes as Opal navigates the creepy Lost Ship, a ship that now seems much more alive than it should be. The novel is written more or less in real-time and as the relationship between Opal and Clarissa develops, it’s hard not to like either of these characters despite one of them not even being alive.
The atmosphere of this story is fabulous. I really felt the oppression of this abandoned vessel: each new room that Opal explores seems to have its own strange secrets and as we learn more about the ship, the tension ramps up. I had a sense of the dread that I’d experienced in films like Alien, Solaris and Event Horizon; the kind of dread that makes you go cold but the shiver down the spine feels delicious.
Later, Opal finds herself pitted against a well-trained squad of marines who’ve been sent to apprehend her. Her resourcefulness in dealing with the threat is both measured and extreme and while I found myself rooting for her, I was also agog at her badass no-nonsense approach. You wouldn’t want to upset Opal, not even a little.
The heart of this novel is the relationship between Opal and the AI, Clarissa. Clarissa is more than just a glorified butler, she actively works to keep Opal alive. Without her help, Opal might not survive and it’s great to see how the author builds their mutual respect. By the end of the novel I was actually quite moved by the outcome, something that took me by surprise but which I loved.
Lost Solace is one of those stories that grabs you by the collar, plonks you in the driving seat and takes you on an amazing adventure so completely that you simply can’t put it down until it’s done. Top quality sci-fi, the likes of which seems rare in self-publishing. I highly recommend it and look forward to the sequel.
Note: For transparency I should point out that I designed the cover for this book. However, I paid for the book myself and reviewed it because I enjoyed it: my involvement with the author was on a purely professional client/customer basis.