DRYAD by Matthew  Shaw


From the "The Darkness Engine Trilogy" series, volume 1
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In the 34th century, an underground movement of scientists tries to prevent Earth’s takeover by malevolent alien species in this sci-fi novel, first of a trilogy.

After war and ecological disasters, Earth spins in a toxic cloud, habitable only in a few high-altitude locations. A handful of rich corporations control the remaining population’s access to goods and knowledge. A secret movement of the “open minded and enlightened,” called Physis, has preserved crucial ecological and other information in hidden locations for each new generation. As the novel begins, it’s year 3300, and Professor Jaxon Ballard is illegally searching a Western European site for signs of ecological recovery. He also hopes to find information related to the death of his wife, Caryn, who was bludgeoned at an excavation site that had, like this one, some odd characteristics, including little black plants and a dark, iridescent black crystal. What no one knows is that the creatures of Siluria aim to transform Earth for their own habitation, a process facilitated by Dryads, who make humans selfish, afraid, and destructive. Emily, Jaxon’s daughter, grows up knowing about Physis and the crystal, which has shown her a vision of a “girl of light.” In 3329, Emily has an opportunity to help save humanity—if she can complete a dangerous mission and thwart the enemy’s cruel plans. In his debut novel, Shaw tells a complicated story with good atmosphere and tech details. For example, “Emily slammed her empty chitinous mug down hard onto the bar, warm soycohol dribbled down her chin.” Dialogue and characterization are also solid. While the plot, with escapes, rescues, and crucial missions, offers some excitement, the pacing drags. It’s odd, too, that 13 centuries after #MeToo, powerful men still openly leer at their employees. Also, the book needs another polish, especially for its very frequent comma splices. 

A slow but intriguing series starter.

Publisher: Kurti Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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