Author: Karl Drinkwater
Sometimes spaceships disappear with everyone on board – the Lost Ships. But sometimes they come back, strangely altered, derelict, and rumoured to be full of horrors.
Opal is on a mission. She’s been seeking something her whole life. Something she is willing to die for. And she thinks it might be on a Lost Ship.
Opal has stolen Clarissa, an experimental AI-controlled spaceship, from the military. Together they have tracked down a Lost Ship, in a lonely nebula far from colonised space.
The Lost Ship is falling into the gravity well of a neutron star, and will soon be truly lost … forever. Legends say the ships harbour death, but there’s no time for indecision.
Opal gears up to board it. She’s just one woman, entering an alien and lethal environment. But perhaps with the aid of Clarissa’s intelligence – and an armoured spacesuit – Opal may stand a chance.
Can she face her demons and survive?
Lost Solace is a well written, thoughtful and fast-paced Sci-Fi thriller that was actually a lot more military-focussed and action heavy than I was expecting.
Our main character, Opal is a very capable soldier. At her aid is a specialised space suit, which I found really cool! She also has the assistance of the AI of her stolen ship, affectionately renamed ‘Clarissa’ – more on her later.
The battle suit, despite being pretty much pure sci-fi was very believable – its augmentations theoretically possible one day. It reminded me a little of when The Terminator is able to bring up diagnostics. The suit, with the help of the connected AI, serves a similar purpose and provides recycled water, oxygen, protection and increased strength and speed, etc.
We get our first hint that this is going to be quite an action packed book when Opal gets set to board the Lost Ship and the array of weaponry at her disposal is revealed (and what she chooses to equip).
This did give me as someone who used to game a lot a bit of a video game vibe (not intended as a criticism) which actually continued through much of the book. The story does play out very much like an action game in many respects, with intense bursts of conflict layered between exploration and discovering the next area. Most of the book sticks to this formula.
In doing so, the slow exposition and building of the world is sacrificed somewhat to cater for the tension, action and exploration scenes. This does work well though in giving us the same into the unknown feeling as Opal; we don’t really need to know anything else about planets, cultures etc. in this story when it’s focus is on Opal’s personal mission, not the introduction of a world.
I had seen this book a few times likened to Alien, though I wouldn’t say it has the sheer terror and suspense – if I had to liken it to that universe it would be Prometheus or possibly Covenant; space thrillers that aren’t intended to be pure horror like the original Alien, but still capture that exploration of the unknown and creepy alien biologies. There isn’t anything particularly nightmarish though and I think this book would be ok for teenagers providing a bit of swearing is ok. That’s not to say the suspense isn’t well done. I just didn’t feel there was anything to really haunt your dreams.
Something Lost Solace most definitely does have in common with all the Alien films is a strong female lead. It was refreshing to read a strong, dark skinned female as the sole lead and the character you are alongside all the way through. It’s easy to warm to Opal which is important when you don’t change character POVs throughout the book. What I also liked is that although she’s likeable, she is also human. One of my pet hates is when characters always manage to find themselves in a position where they don’t have to make the horrible decision. They can live without any regret or reflection on what they’ve done and maintain that air of undisputable moral authority. Opal makes tough decisions, she weighs up the advantages and the disadvantages. Although she’s obviously a person with a code of honour, she will do what she must to survive.
Clarissa, the onboard AI is also a shining light throughout the book. Her interactions with Opal are great, and it’s genuinely thought provoking to consider the value of AI consciousness. It’s something I’ve been thinking of when I’m daydreaming, having encountered sentient ships in Skyward and Embers of War and now a similar onboard AI in Clarissa.
Even if made up of a computer algorithm or pages of complex code, if an AI has self awareness, does that make their consciousness less important than a human’s, when they can think, question, desire to live? The main purpose of the AI through the story though is to give Opal an advantage against the enemies she faces – military space marines, mostly. She manages to outsmart them and put her training to good use too through her skill and intelligence, but you can only just manage to believe her survivability with the aid of the AI or the odds against her would just be too great to overcome. When does the hero of any similar story ever face even odds though?
I recently had to put a book on hold for a bit for being too slow. At this current moment in time I’m feeling quite a rushed reader and so this book’s pacing really suited my reading requirements. There are no boring lulls, the plot consistently interesting throughout.
I think the style of this book works well but future books could do with more depth if the author is intending it to be a multiple book series. I imagine this would inevitably be layered in organically though with a building of the wider story. If you are looking for a quick, fast paced and action heavy book it would still work as a standalone but you are left with most of the answers to be revealed in the next book! I think fans of Mass Effect and Lost in Space would enjoy it, as well as incorporating some of the curious unknown aspects of the Dead Space games & Alien films.