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Supernova a major disappointment after Lightless
October 25, 2016
By C A Higgins
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pub Date 26 Jul 2016
Lightless is a captivating novel, imaginative and thought provoking. Thus, I was stunned to find its followup Supernova as unappealing as Lightless was appealing. It is never a good sign when I feel the need to put down a novel to read something else - especially if this happens several times.
Supernova is a bleak tale, featuring alternately on Constance's revolution, and Ananke's growing distance from humanity. Both are obsessed, Constance with routing out the System and Ananke with creating another sentient computer system. They share a second desire in common - finding Ivan and Mattie. Too be honest, there is a limit to how much pointless destruction and meandering narrative a reader can take. Constance has little depth and no conscience, destroying all that she defines as System, which includes anyone who questions her methods. Higgins reminds the reader over and over that "liberation" through war means that the civilians suffer most as the structures that enable day to day life are destroyed. Ananke on the other hand comes to see herself as a god, eliminating the crews of any ship that she fails to awaken - all of them in other words. The only difference that emerges between the two is that Constance hears the voice of her conscience at the very end and Ananke destroys her conscience (Althea, one of Ananke's creators).
The tale is long and meandering but despite the number of pages the reader wallows through there is little sense of progression. Instead my feelings of revulsion grew. Both Constance and Ananke are abhorrent, and Althea's efforts to convince Ananke of the value of human life are lacking. Most of Althea's arguments fall in the "because I said so" category. Higgins passed up an opportunity to highlight the Althea's conception that all who are alive have value and Constance's endless killing. Not only that, she made the one character readers might empathize with powerless. It is difficult for a novel to succeed when there are no characters that a reader can comfortably empathize with.
Worst of all, I couldn't wait for the novel to end. Seeing Constance kill anyone who pisses her off and Ananke behaving like Hal on speed over and over again grates on the nerves.
I received a copy of Supernova from the publisher and netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
C. A. Higgins's acclaimed novel Lightless fused suspenseful storytelling, high-caliber scientific speculation, and richly developed characters into a stunning science fiction epic. Now the dazzling Supernova heightens the thrills and deepens the haunting exploration of technology and humanity—and the consequences that await when the two intersect.
Once Ananke was an experimental military spacecraft. But a rogue computer virus transformed it—her—into something much more: a fully sentient artificial intelligence, with all the power of a god—and all the unstable emotions of a teenager.
Althea, the ship's engineer and the last living human aboard, nearly gave her life to save Ananke from dangerous saboteurs, forging a bond as powerful as that between mother and daughter. Now she devotes herself completely to Ananke's care. But teaching a thinking, feeling machine—perhaps the most dangerous force in the galaxy—to be human proves a monumental challenge. When Ananke decides to seek out Matthew Gale, the terrorist she regards as her father, Althea learns that some bonds are stronger than mortal minds can understand—or control.
Drawn back toward Earth by the quest, Althea and Ananke will find themselves in the thick of a violent revolution led by Matthew's sister, the charismatic leader Constance, who will stop at nothing to bring down a tyrannical surveillance state. As the currents of past decisions and present desires come into stark collision, a new and fiery future is about to be born.
Praise for C. A. Higgins's Lightless
“Gripping . . . sci-fi with a hint of thriller.”—New York Daily News
“[A] measured, lovely science-fiction debut [that is] more psychological thriller . . . contained, disciplined, tense . . . The plot is compulsive. . . . Lightless is the first of a planned series, and you can't help looking forward to learning what's next.”—The New York Times
“The stakes in this story are high—life and death, rebellion and betrayal. . . . Higgins continually ratchets up the tension. . . . This is a debut not to be missed.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A taut, suspenseful read.”—Tech Times
“Absolutely brilliant . . . science fiction as it is meant to be done.”—New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire