Review copy provided by the publisher. Also the author is a friend.
Ashlan Jackson’s world was, theoretically, shattered by humanity’s war with the incomprehensible screaming alien Vai. In reality, humanity had done quite enough before the Vai ever came along to break Ash’s world to pieces. The debt and indenture system set up by corporations of the future put people like her into a long series of no-win situations, so the risk and trauma of being soldiers in an alien war just feels like the capstone rather than something separate. Ash has already lost a fiance. She just wants a place to call home, people to call family.
And on the Twenty-Five, she has it, sort of. Her crewmates annoy her in the way that family can annoy, but they’re a good team, searching and salvaging to a “Christmas list” of tech treasures, sorting through corpses on the quiet space battlefield.
But Ash’s body is quietly, slowly betraying her. And it turns out so are some other humans. And all the empathy and understanding she can bring to the situation are tested and twisted as she gets staggering new insight on the nature of the Vai and their interactions with humanity.
I don’t know what was in the water a few years ago to result in a rich subgenre vein of salvage-focused space opera, but I’m glad it was, and I would like to continue with whatever supplement that is, please. Celestium or whatever, sure, let’s have some of that. Because this is an incredibly different book from Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night and Machine, Valerie Valdes’s Chilling Effect, or Suzanne Palmer’s Finder. In no way could you blur any two of them together, they are tonally and thematically incredibly different. But taken as a group of recent finding-the-weird-stuff salvage space opera, it’s a sub-genre I’m very pleased with, and would like to see continue. And I’m so glad to add Architects of Memory to that conversation and the thoughts sparked thereby.