For five thousand Earthyears, the planet called Nevermore has been empty. Its cities are deserted, with every trace of their inhabitants erased. Only a handful of nomadic tribes remain, none of whom remember the ones who went before.
An expedition from Earth has been excavating one of the planet’s many ruins, and attempting without success to find the cause of its people’s disappearance. Now the expedition is in trouble, its funding cut; unless it makes a major discovery, and soon, it will be shut down. Then the United Planets will invade Nevermore and strip it of its resources, and destroy its ancient and enigmatic treasures.
Aisha, the daughter of the chief archaeologists, tries to save the expedition by opening a sealed tomb or treasury-and manages instead to destroy it. But one treasure survives, which may be the key to the planet’s mystery. That treasure is alive, and deeply dangerous: a long-forgotten king and conqueror, sentenced to be preserved in stasis centuries before his world was abandoned.
Khalida is a Military Intelligence officer with a quarter-million deaths on her conscience. She has retreated to the near-solitude of Nevermore to try to come to terms with what she has done, but her past will not let her go. The war she thought she had ended still rages, and is about to destroy one planet and spread chaos through a hundred more. Her superiors force her back into service, and dispatch her to a world that may also offer a clue to the mystery of Nevermore.
With the alien king, the sentient starship he liberates from an unholy alliance of Military Intelligence and the Interstellar Institute for Psychic Research, and a crew of scientists, explorers, and renegades, Aisha and Khalida set off on a journey to the end of the universe and beyond. What they find will change not only the future of Nevermore, but that of all the United Planets
From the publishers via Librarything’s April 2015 Early Reviewers batch, this was sitting on my ereader for over a year – my 2016 reading challenge is to clear some of the older books off my TBR.
This begins with Aisha – an impulsive teenager, who lives on the near-deserted planet Nevermore, with a small number of xenoarchaeologists – uses too much explosive and tears the top off the local mountain. In doing this, she awakens a strange character, who appears to be an inhabitant of the world from 6000 years previously. Nicknamed Rama, it appears that he was seen as a threat by his people, but that his return was foretold in myth by the few remaining aboriginal people on Nevermore.
Khalida is from MI, on the planet to recover from what she’s done (think extreme, psychic version of PTSD), but still doesn’t feel fixed. She senses a threat in Rama, but doesn’t know what that threat is and how it will materialise. She knows he is off the scale with Psi powers and wonders what he will do if the Psychic people ever find out what his powers are.
Khalida gets called back to active service, to return to the scene of her “crime” and Rama leaves with her. Aisha joins the ship as a stowaway, wanting to follow Rama in the belief that she can protect him from the modern world he doesn’t know and maybe protect the world from him somehow.
Soon the trio travel different worlds, pick up a living Ship that feeds off the stars and find the only way for Rama to repay the horror that he inflicted 6000 years before. Finally, it’s an entire world full of people who have to confront the common enemy that they have been waiting for Rama to destroy.
This is a complex novel, both in terms of the story itself and the characters that are involved in telling it. Tarr has produced a world that is the same but different enough from our own, where sexual relationships can be fluid and definately not defined/definable. Most (if not all) of the characters are PoC – something I believe is fairly rare in Sci Fi and kudos to Tarr for making it Not That Big A Deal, in the story at least! In reading other people’s reviews, it seems some people have taken offence to the characters being PoC, as a case of Political Correctness Gone Mad (yes you guessed it, from a White Middle Aged Man).
I’m not going to go into all the threads and plot points here, mainly because it’s too long, and not the point of a review. It’s certainly a recommend for those who like their sci-fi to have loads of interstellar travel, worlds to be just different enough, and complicated/big enough for someone to sink their teeth into.