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The Blighted Stars, by Megan E. O’Keefe

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Where’s the line between space opera and planetary adventure? “We have a whole bunch of spaceships and vast interstellar organizations and stuff but we’re gonna crash land on a dead planet and have to survive with people about whom we feel terribly conflicted and discover that we were wrong about our worldview”: I think that’s both, right? I think that’s both, but also it’s definitely The Blighted Stars by Megan E. O’Keefe.

Tarquin Mercator is the scion of one of the five wealthy families who control the known worlds. He’s more interested in geology than in politics and power, and he has named his little robot Pliny the Metal. (It is theoretically possible that you will not love Pliny the Metal, but…this does not seem to me very likely, it’s like not loving a tachikoma. Except Pliny the Metal doesn’t talk, so no one will be annoyed by its voice.) Naira Sharp is a revolutionary whose mind has been printed into someone else’s body, and she has to figure out why and what to do about it. Because yeah, this is a world where the map of your consciousness is saved and downloaded, repeatedly, into new bodies. Which sounds great, but gets much worse the more you think about it, and the book thinks about it a lot.

Also, humanity has basically trashed several ecosystems, so…is this trashed ecosystem humanity’s fault? the fault of some very specific humans related to Tarquin Mercator? a cosmic accident? What is going on with the fungus that is the only life-form covering the planet that was supposed to be full of life forms? And can two such different people as Tarquin and Naira manage to work together when they each have pieces of this puzzle?

This is the beginning of a new series, so some of these questions are not fully answered–and the ones that are only lead to more questions. But if you’re looking for planetary adventure that does not let up, this is very much in that mode.

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