Thought-provoking Sci-Fi (4 stars)
Source- review copy
Tor Science Fiction- October 30th 2012
Kindle edition- 352 pages
My personal tastes within sci-fi tend to lean towards the older classic writers of the genre. I love John Wyndham, HG Wells and Richard Mattheson for example, and the way they depict problems arising on ‘our’ Earth. To be honest, it is actually incredibly rare for me to be so drawn to a book with a futuristic premise and a world created like this one; but drawn to it I indeed was. I knew I HAD to read this book the second I stumbled across the summary.
It’s difficult to explain the exact nature of the plot. Not because it is overly complicated (in fact, in works perfectly and is incredibly appealing), its just that so much happens and is such a genuinely creative storyline that I don’t want to miss anything out!
Elizabeth Cole is a psychologist who accepts a job on a newly discovered planet- the ecosystem not so different to that of Earth, but with one big difference: the earth’s colonists who have made their home on the planet find themselves tethered to alien beings who manifest into forms of the colonists dead loved ones. Colonists are expected to adhere to strict protocol and completely ignore these ‘ghosts’ who are still able to speak, feel and think and in fact seem desperate for some form of communication. Upon arrival, Elizabeth meets with the creator of this ‘ghost protocol’ (her new supervisor) and the chemistry between them instantly sizzles, but both are shocked to realise that something is amiss and that Elizabeth was actually killed on route to the planet and that for some reason she is his new ‘ghost…’
I have to say that the author has a really evocative writing style which drew me into the book immediately. Some of her descriptions of the planet were utterly beautiful and as a reader I could envisage what Elizabeth was seeing very clearly. They were vivid but not too over the top and I felt really drawn into the world and what was occurring- especially with details about the climate and the habitation. The small details about communication and food worked very well and even some of the biological facets that she created were quite approachable and I never found myself confused- which is often the case with me and science generally! Her world-building was definitely top-notch as far as I am concerned.
Characterisation too, was great; from the start you feel like you get to know Elizabeth Cole as a person and when she finds out her predicament you can feel her shock- then the palpable pain of what she is going through. My opinions on Murphy were mixed, I did like him but he was perhaps too perfect a man by the end of the novel- the eponymous romantic hero. There is also the expected mix of good guys and bad guys- of whose agenda the reader is never quite sure of, which keeps you guessing.
I suppose my only real issue with this novel is that once the relationship between the main protagonists takes a different turn (about a third of the way into the book- it is a really slow burn up until that point), the pace seems to slow and there is less of a focus on the world-building and the colonists and ghost protocol and a lot more sex and romance interwoven into the plot. At this time, the book veers off somewhat into ‘sci-fi lite’ in my opinion, though the pace does pick up again as the ending draws near.
I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy science fiction combined with romance. There’s some really terrific, original world-building and some great, solid characters who have been introduced amidst a really creative storyline- I would really like to see if there is a sequel forthcoming.