New Earth faces non-Intercept threats in this trilogy closer.
In the year that has passed since Dark Mind Rising (2018), 19-year-old Violet Crowley has become president of the New Earth Senate, 18-year-old Steven “Rez” Reznik is the New Earth Science Authority director and chief technologist, doctor/artist Shura Lu leads government research efforts, and Kendall Mayhew serves as police chief, with deputy Tin Man. (Lest readers question such high ranks achieved at such tender ages, the text points out that New Earth President Ahmad Shabir is 24.) Rez’s calculations show deteriorations in New Earth’s orbit; while scanning the galaxy for a good star and exoplanet for eventual relocation, he detects a faraway signal originating from his dead sister’s Intercept chip. Another threat that the plucky band of heroes must contain is a nasty jumping virus, Graygrunge, which is just as deadly to people as it’s destructive to computers. While the primary storyline is about the signal, the driving narrative tension instead comes from the interpersonal dynamics of the core cast and the push-pull of emotion and reason—external threats are sparse, episodic, and quickly dealt with. At times, the thematic elements come out as long, preachy character monologues. Most characters are white; Shura is queer, and Rez is coded as neurodivergent. The ending only satisfies if one doesn’t think too long on logistics.
Though heavy-handed, the thematic arc succeeds where the world still feels flimsy. (Science fiction. 12-adut)