October 22, 2017

Review: How Dark the World Becomes by Frank Chadwick

Out now from Baen Books!

Word is out in the cosmos; humans are first class criminals.

This week’s review offers an interesting insight into a question astrobiologists and science fiction fans have often pondered; how would we stack up against other alien species? Are we smarter, dumber, faster or the only race dexterous to play Eruption on the guitar this side of the Milky Way?

How Dark the World Becomes by Frank Chadwick out from Baen Books gets at the fascinating core of this subject and more. The reference itself comes from a quote from Leo Tolstoy and is fitting for the far off, hard scrabble intergalactic underworld depicted in the novel.

We enter the realm of the novel through the eyes and actions of Sasha Naradnyo, a small time Earth gangster operating in a forsaken colony known simply as the Crack on planet Peezgtaan. The narrative in Naradnyo’s own voice gives us an insight into how intergalactic mobsters operate, similar the modus operandi used in the USA network series Burn Notice.

In the universe of How Dark the World Becomes, future humanity has found itself to be the “low man on the intergalactic totem pole” (bad pun intended) in a collective organization of sentient races known as the Cottohazz. It’s interesting to note that some of our more salient exports in the galaxy are our art and culture (one of Sasha’s lizard-like Varoki friends is, for example, fond of 60’s dye-died T-shirts) and our criminal expertise.

Sasha finds himself on a planet-spanning mission, first as a body guard for a woman and her child seeking a perilous passage. Sasha then becomes an unwitting pawn in an underhanded game of intergalactic proportions, dealing with alien shadow organizations he scarcely knew existed.

The writing in terms of the military genre of science fiction is also top notch, worthy of a Heinlein. Like Blowback by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, we were especially impressed by not only how the aliens are depicted as, well, alien, but how they are imbued with their own often unfathomable motives as well. The sprinkling of alien and human lingo for various terms was a nice touch… hey, terrestrial gangster culture has its own vernacular for those “in the know…” why shouldn’t that carry on into space?

And besides, who’s to say that we (as in humanity) would dominate a Galactic Federation of planets and alien races anyhow? We would more than likely (i.e. almost certainly) be the newcomers on the cosmic block, as we’ve only have space-faring technology for just over a half century now. Who says as often depicted in various “other” sci-fi franchises, that we get to be in charge? Simple human hubris at its best!

Do check out How Dark the World Becomes for a fast-paced intergalactic adventure full of far-flung alien intrigue. We’ve only scratched the surface of Sasha Naradnyo’s universe and the gangster culture within it!

Next Week: Its back to the science and all that is cosmological with a look at Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe by Jeremiah P. Ostriker & Simon Mitton!

 

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