Two people from different worlds meet and discover an unexpected bond in Perron and Simpson’s debut sci-fi novel.
On his planet, Segkel Eraranat is a young Cultural Theorist whose job is to travel to other worlds via a warp gate and help secure a form of energy called “vita” for his people. Vita comes from “anything of cultural or spiritual importance,” and Segkel’s civilization needs it to survive. A dark force stripped his world of most of its vita, so his people steal other planets’ energy—conquering, enslaving and pillaging them for their natural, technological and cultural resources. As the novel opens, he travels to a world as brutish as his own, run by a rigid caste system in which the wealthy leaders oppress the lower classes, including the Kenda, a seafaring people. Segkel hires Ama, a female Kenda boat captain, to guide him, and they begin to have unlikely romantic feelings for each other despite themselves. Perron and Simpson craft beautifully, intricately designed worlds that are distinct from each other but also share some parallels—one of the novel’s most fascinating aspects. There are no easily definable heroes or villains; what Segkel’s people plan to do to those of Ama’s world is no worse than how the people of her world already treat one another. The novel feels like a dark twist on the TV series Stargate SG-1; on that show, the people of Earth altruistically uses a wormhole device to save other planets from an oppressive alien race, but in this novel, people use their warp gate to save themselves, at the cost of countless other worlds. At times, the novel’s concept is stronger than its execution—its story and characters don’t have as much of an emotional impact as the authors clearly intend—but it’s worthy, intelligent sci-fi nonetheless.
An often gripping sci-fi tale that offers a great deal to ponder about conquest and morality, although readers may wish they felt more moved by the characters’ plights.