“The Stark Divide” by J. Scott Coatsworth
Title: The Stark Divide
Series: Liminal Sky Book #1
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Genre: LGBTQ+ Science Fantasy
Publisher: DSP Publications
Some stories are epic.
The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.
Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.
From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.
Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.
There are many point-of-view characters in this multi-part work, but I believe our main characters were Lex, Dr. Anatov, and Captain McAvery. Most of the story circles around Lex, the genderqueer spaceship with cutting edge ship technology, who is part organic and part artificial intelligence, which makes her unique in the futuristic Earth culture. Accidentally, a contagion is brought on board, which leads to the unfortunate death of one of the crewman and the emergency transfer of Lex into a genesis project of sorts, designed to make an asteroid habitable and then eventually grow to the point where it can spread its wings, if you will, and fly to another galaxy. At least, that’s the plan.
This story is also about redemption. Even though the contagion was an accident, and it eventually led to Lex beginning a destiny she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to follow otherwise, it also led to the death of a crewman. That fault lies squarely on the shoulders of Dr. Anatov.
It was super easy for me to dislike Dr. Anatov from the get-go, considering she basically killed someone who I considered to be very noble (with a family), and my regard of her didn’t change much throughout the novel. To be fair, I think the author was trying to dish out her comeuppance, but I had a hard time mustering the forgiveness. I’m a cold-hearted bastard like that. However, as an antagonist of the story, she was a good choice because she wasn’t too evil, not a Joffrey Baratheon, so that was effective.
There’s the story with the transcendence of the ship, the redemption of Dr. Antaov, and then there are six or more other POV characters, but the last main character (in my opinion) was Captain Colin McAvery, a happily married gay man. He was a good protagonist who would do the right thing and get things done, but I’m not entirely certain what his character evolution was.
The book was divided into parts–spanning decades–which I was fine with, but we had to familiarize ourselves with a new cast every part, or at least mostly. By the last part, I was a bit mentally exhausted and therefore can’t tell you much about our final cast of characters, but I did like the epic nature of events. This allowed the author to focus on those pieces of the story that were of the utmost importance to the arc. This is shaping up to be a solid space adventure epic! I’m extremely curious to see what the second book will be like. I don’t want to spoil it, but the end of the first book lands in a pretty exciting place, full of potential, good and bad.
I thought the setting and the technology of the story was magic-y, kinda like Star Trek. This definitely wasn’t The Expanse in realism or grit. There were some undertones of heavy politics operating in the background of the story, but they weren’t the main focus. I wouldn’t call this a space opera, either. At times the drama was nearly understated.
I’d recommend this work to lovers of Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Farscape, and those who appreciate a queerer bend to their speculative fiction.
This review was originally posted to Queer Sci Fi.