I’m excited that this month’s Fantasy Review is J. Scott Coatsworth’s The Stark Divide, the first in the Liminal Sky series. I was able to get an early copy of this stunning sci-fi tale!
In the year 2135 AD, the human race is struggling. To combat the devastation on Earth, a new world is being created. An AI will be merged with a seedling, a ship that will grow from an asteroid and eventually become an inhabitable world. Due to an unforeseen accident, the seedling’s planting doesn’t go according to plan. The three crewmembers do what they must to ensure the new world starts to form.
In 2145 AD, the new world, known as Forever, is growing. The first workers are terraforming the land, planting compatible seeds, building sustainable homes. But, Lex, the AI who runs Forever, hasn’t forgiven those who caused the accident so many years ago. When given the chance to meet her maker, Lex shows that though she has been manufactured, she is still capable of very human emotions. Hopefully, forgiveness is one of them.
By the year 2165 AD, Earth has reached its boiling point. War, famine, changes in weather. Refugees try everything to flee the dying world and make their way to Forever. But the new world is not so safe as everyone seems to think. Humanity still walks its surface, which means their base nature of greed, envy, and corruption will never be left behind.
This story is very epic in scope, spanning over a thirty year period. You get to see the birth of the seedling, its adolescence, and finally its capabilities of being a host and home for humanity. One enjoyable aspect is viewing the technology as it grows, understanding the process taken to ensure the survival of the human race. It’s a well thought out and logical system. The idea of the self-aware AI is given a different spin in this story. They are seen as if they are a new species, ones with souls and worth. I loved the evolution of Lex as she grew and began to gasp her place within the universe, and her purpose for being brought to life.
The details of Forever were intricate. It was easy to picture the terrain and landscape of the asteroid, and so interesting to imagine the aspects that made it unique, like the plants glowing with an ethereal light, powered by the lifeforce of Lex. The concept was exciting.
While each of the three segments of the story were engaging on their own, I wished they could have been more drawn out. The first chuck about the birth of the seedling was my favorite, with a sense of intrigue and suspense. Spending more time with the buildup and the release would have been great. And I wish the rest of the story could have held up that same tension.
This story is a great introduction to the series, establishing the measures needed to allow life to survive after Earth. Now that the basics of the world and the people’s plight have been laid out, I hope the next in the series will set a breakneck pace of the evolution of the citizens as they learn to live away from their native homeworld. I’m more interested on the species as a whole, than any focus on one particular human.