RogerBW's Blog

Gravity of a Distant Sun, R. E. Stearns 25 October 2023

2020 SF, third and of its series. Adda and Iridian have been captured by the law, and the rogue AIs are still out there and trying to manipulate them…

I enjoyed this book rather more than the middile volume, but I still didn't love it. There's lots of enjoyable small detail, like the way Adda and Iridian's relationship recovers and changes after Adda was manipulated into stabbing Iridian by one of those rogue AIs (in the previous book); like the way people live on a marginal space station in Jupiter's radiation belts; like the microcultures that grow up to replace a distant or absent central authority. This is all good stuff.

But it doesn't quite fit together. Everything goes moment to moment, small highs and deep despairing lows, but there's never any sense of progress as goals keep shifting in and out of possibility—except right at the end when everything's resolved. It's a satisfying resolution, sure. But the process of getting there is very disjointed.

"I was actually hoping to propose an exchange," said Shingetsu. "I believe we can help each other."

"If it's sex, I volunteer," Pel said cheerfully. Adda glanced at him in alarm and he shrugged. "What? It's what I'm best at."

On the other hand, major plot points involve Adda going on a physical intrusion operation to obtain the source code to patch a vulnerability in her neural implant firmware which the vendor isn't going to fix—and later going back to steal a code signing certificate so that the implant will accept the modified firmware. I'll forgive a lot for that sort of crunchy fun obviously inspired by the real world.

Instead she gave Iridian a quick kiss, which Iridian leaned into and turned it into the kind of kiss that inspired Pel to whoop and point obnoxiously. Then Adda was on her way toward the guest cabin and the generator, where there wouldn't be any awkwardness at all. Mortal peril and mental instability, but no awkwardness. The door slid shut behind her. This was where she belonged.

If this had been another like book 2 and things had carried on in the same vein, I'd probably have dropped the series, but the ultimate conclusion is satisfying so I'm glad I risked my time on it—even though the earlier parts felt like a fair old slog.

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Previous in series: Mutiny at Vesta | Series: Shieldrunner Pirates

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