Edge of Dark

Brenda Cooper
Edge of Dark Cover

Edge of Dark


This book was an awesome read. I first went into it believing it was a brand new series set in a new universe, but it turns out I was only half right. Edge of Dark is indeed the first book of a planned duology, but then I discovered within the first few pages that it also takes place in the future of the same timeline as Brenda Cooper's Ruby's Song series. This actually made me very happy - I loved The Diamond Deep when I read it a couple years ago. We're introduced to new characters here in The Glittering Edge series, but Ruby's legacy lives on, and the best part is, the new reader can jump on board with no problems.

Here's what to know: long ago, society exiled a small subset of the population who wanted to start a machine revolution. Seen as abominations, these people who essentially wanted to meld their minds into robot bodies were summarily banished to the far edges of the solar system to waste away and perish without the access to sunlight and resources. But instead of dying out like they were expected to, these exiles flourished, growing into a formidable force of near-AI entities who call themselves the Next. Now they're more powerful than ever before, and they're coming back.

When that happens, the characters in this book all have a lot to lose. Charlie is a ranger who has spent his whole life trying to restore the ecosystem and natural wonders of Lym, a planet which will be one of the first casualties if humanity goes to war with the Next. The Next have already claimed a research station called the High Sweet Home, killing all its inhabitants and turning many into robots with sentient minds like themselves. Nona Hall is from the space station Diamond Deep, which would suffer similar consequences if the Next attack, but she has other worries to deal with -- her best friend Chrystal was on the High Sweet Home, and the scientist's fate still remains a mystery.

Edge of Dark was a delightful surprise which completely took over my life for two days, and I don't regret a second of it. The book features a rich story that held me captive from the get-go, introducing deep characters in a well-established universe with a long and interesting history. Charlie and Nona are two disparate souls who nonetheless find comfort and solace in each other. One was born and raised on a wild and savage planet, while the other has lived on a space station her whole life, never having seen the sky. When Nona arrives on Lym to live out a lifelong dream, Charlie expected to hate her. However, she turns out to be very different from the rest of the high-and-mighty Diamond Deep elite, and the two quickly strike up a quiet friendship. Edge of Dark is not a romance by any means, but it does have a thread of a love story woven through the plot, and I just happened to be in the mood for it.

The beginning of the book was also my favorite part, because having grown up in cities my whole life, I was able to relate to Nona and understand her reaction to the natural beauty of Lym. Also kudos to Charlie and the rangers for the work that they do. I can appreciate the environmental message there, but more importantly, it was not in-your-face about it.

Then comes the Next. I was unsure about them at first, these Borg-like machines who take over human beings with ruthless abandon, downloading a person's consciousness into a carbon fiber body and incorporating them into a greater network, all without the victim's consent. The result is something that almost looks and acts like a human, but they are not alive in the strictest sense. They don't need air, food, or sleep. Their artificial bodies are stronger and more powerful. However, every Next's mind once belonged to a living, breathing person. And like all living things, they have the drive to propagate and survive. So where does this put them?

What felt like an urgent escalation towards a tense space adventure began easing off instead, becoming something more understated. I think those anticipating a bigger payoff might come away disappointed, but I found myself drawn to the rest of the story. These kinds of books that feature themes of transhumanism or explore what it means to be human always seem to get me for some reason. Add Brenda Cooper's unique portrayal of artificial intelligence to that, and I had a very good time with this novel.

Edge of Dark won't be for everyone, but it worked for me. I certainly didn't expect to like it so much, and was surprised at how addictive most of the story was, especially in the beginning. One of the more enjoyable sci-fi reads of the year for me so far.