Linda Nagata


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

July 25, 2020

itting unread on my bookshelf for years now are four novels that I have always meant to open The Bohr Maker, Tech Heaven, Deception Well and Vast. I just never got around to reading these books - I tend to read books that I get out of the library first, because they have a due date. So, paradoxically, if I buy a book, I am less likely to read it. Those four unread novels are, of course, the Nanotech Succession sequence of novels by Linda Nagata. If they are as good as Edges, then I have been missing some excellent story telling.

Edges is set in the distant future. A colony of humans survives on a distant star system called Deception Well, which exists at the remote edge of the galaxy, at the very limit of humanity's empire. The vast empire of humans exists no longer, it was destroyed by mighty alien starships built by the Chenzeme - powerful cruisers that hunt down any sign of sentient life in the galaxy and destroy it. When the humans on Deception Well look back toward the heart of the former human empire, they can only see distant clues of immense destruction. At their peak, godlike humans built mega-structures around stars, huge Dyson spheres and engineering marvels that are called the Hallowed Vasties. But all is silent now, the Dyson spheres shattered, the fate of the rest of humanity can only be speculated. The humans on Deception Well fear that the Chenzeme killer ships will find their solar system and ruthlessly attack - and at the start of novel, the sentinels posted at the limit of the Deception Well solary system detect an inbound Chenzeme courser - a powerful, killer starship.

Edges is primarily the story of two ancient humans (post-humans? meta-humans?) Urban and Clementine, that possess incredible abilities. They can create copies of themeselves, either purely virtual or as ghosts, which are physical but disposable. The memories from these copies can be merged back into the original human, so all the experiences can be shared. Of course, every human keeps backup copies of themselves in the archives in case disaster happens. The humans can edit their personalities, remove boredom, or the sense of passing time (there is no faster-than-light travel in this novel, so centuries pass on voyages, but with the humans altering their sense of the passage of time, the endless voyages are easily endured.

Urban has proposed that the humans of Deception Well mount a voyage of exploration the Hallowed Vasties. It is time to answer the question - do any other humans survive? Urban's proposal has a surprisingly strong response, eventually a team of 60 humans set forth on a voyage of discovery to answer the big question, despite the menace of the Chenzeme. There is menace and discovery and scientific marvels. I read this book in a couple of days because it was so intriguing. There was always something new to explore, a new challenge; a new marvel; a menace - there are things in the galaxy even worse than the Chenzeme...

Edges reminds me of the writing of Alastair Reynolds or Robert Reed, maybe a hint of Iain Banks or Vernor Vinge - stories set in a distant future, where technology is like magic, and yet the science seems plausible. The world building is terrific, the menace and mystery of the vast galaxy is on display. I love stories that manage to convey a sense of huge distances and centuries of time. Unfortunately, Edges is not a complete story, it is volume one in a trilogy (?) called the Inverted Frontier. Fortunately, book 2, Silver is already published, so I can read that soon.