Sunday, June 25, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Radiate by C.A. Higgins

I've previously reviewed Lightless and Supernova on my twitter account, and have been pretty excited for Radiate, which is the concluding novel in the trilogy.  A spoilery review will be after the jump, but for those who haven't read the first two novels, I gave them an 8 and an 8.5 respectively. The Novels are very ambitious, dealing with scientific concepts such as entropy, scientific forces, and AIs.

The Novels also deal with concepts of revolution against a dystopian government, how far one should go in pursuit of freedom, and how far should loved ones of revolutionaries be willing to go in support of those revolutionary ideals to support those loved ones.  It's a tricky balance for the story to strike, and the first two novels had issues at times balancing the SciFi themes with the other themes.  Radiate is no different in that respect

Long Review continues with Spoilers After the Jump:

-----------------------------Plot Summary------------------------------
In Lightless, the research ship Ananke, meant to study a way to reverse Entropy, instead became sentient due to a virus installed through the efforts of thieves and sometime revolutionaries Ivan and Mattie.  In the process, the entire crew of Ananke was killed except for young scientist Althea, and Ivan's lover and Mattie's foster sister Constance had essentially destroyed civilization on Earth and ignited a revolution against the autocratic "System" government.

In Supernova, the story was split into two:
One half of the story dealt with Althea trying to be a "mother" to the emerging AI of Ananke, which has mood swings almost like that of a teenager and unfortunately has quickly figured out that its technology and AI makes it the most powerful thing in the Solar System, capable of paralyzing electronics and ships from a distance and venting other ships' atmosphere to kill all the humans inside.  Althea desperately attempts to teach Ananke that doing this last part is wrong, but fails....and in the end, Ananke opens her skull and seems to plug in her brain into its system.
The other half of the story features Constance and her revolution, as she attempts to destroy all elements remaining of the evil System government.  However, as the revolution grows in strength at an unexpected rate, the revolution goes out of control, with multiple groups taking control of various planets, and innocents being massacred on multiple planets.  In the end, Constance is killed by one of her subordinates.

Radiate takes place mostly during Supernova, and picks up with Ivan and Mattie as they escape Ananke after Lightless.  The book constantly switches between flashbacks to Ivan and Mattie's pasts together and their actions in the "present" as they attempt to decide what to do when their mutual loved one, Constance, has committed atrocities with their help in the sake of her cause.  Ivan loves Constance and feels the need to be with her, despite his hate of everything she's become.  Mattie loves Ivan and wants Ivan to give up his hunt for Constance, even despite his relation to her.

And then there's Ananke, which has decided it needs to find its father, in Mattie, and to create a second AI so that it will no longer be alone.  It will destroy the whole system to get what it wants....although Althea's mind is trying to slow her down.
------------------------------End Plot Summary----------------------------
Here's the thing:  The big overarcing plotline of the series involves Ananke and how to deal with an essentially omnipotent but dangerously immature AI.  But Radiate isn't really that interested in this element of the plot.  Instead, the story is a love story between Mattie and Ivan, with a kind of conclusion to the revolutionary storyline included as well.  It's a love story that works really well, honestly, as the two try to find their way in the chaos that has become of the solar system over the course of the story and instead find each other.

That said, the pacing of this book is again not great (which was a problem with Lightless) as many of the flashbacks do not seem necessary and are predictable in their result, which is an issue for even the love story part of this book.  And's hard not to be annoyed at how much this book ignores and casts aside the issues of Ananke and the AI, which is resolved over about 5 chapters spread across the book and then one final chapter where everything collides together VERY quickly.

This whole series again has been very ambitious, and in Radiate, it finally feels like Higgins really bit off more than she could chew.  The writing of Ivan and Mattie, particularly Mattie, who we really haven't gotten to know previously, is excellent enough to make the book work, but this isn't the SF classic that the series showed promise of being back in Lightless.  I'd recommend the series to a SciFi fan, but it's not a must read, alas.

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