The Confederation, a multi-planetary post-singularity society, desperately wants to know how to achieve transcendence into an Elder Race. Their scouts encounter Darius, a lost colony world whose inhabitants have apparently discarded the technology that brought them to the planet, in order to adopt a virtually feudal culture.
But the scouts are shocked when they discover that the controlling elite, in each of the major centres of population, exhibit abilities that defy the accepted laws of physics. Although the population appear to believe their leaders to be capable of performing sorcery, the Confederation concludes they must in fact be using a technology sufficiently advanced to seem like magic. Is it a technology left behind by long-gone Elders, or an indication of an advanced race trying to control the colony – perhaps one of a number of such races who are intent on meddling in human affairs?
Either way, the need to understand and utilise such a technology leads the Confederation Security Council to launch an urgent mission to investigate Darius. Suitable specialists are swiftly enlisted to create a team, including both scientists and AIs, but all under military control. Protocol dictates that stealthy infiltration should precede initial contact, but the lack of sufficient prior observation and analysis will make it harder for the team to establish a credible cover story. Although their ship can remain in a hidden orbit, the research team will be on their own once they land, especially as Confederation technology seems to be unreliable or even inoperative on the planet’s surface. But they will soon discover that the people on Darius are not all the simple folk that they seem.
This book has a somewhat different story than the usual run-of-the-mill science fiction stories. At least within the realm of the type of science fiction books that I usually read. The concept of science versus magic has been used in a fair amount of books already so that in itself is not very new. However, I found the setup in this book to be a bit different and quite interesting to read. The book itself is well written and paints a reasonable detailed universe as the book progresses.
One thing that I found a bit annoying was the extremely superior attitude that was shown to the “primitive colonies”. These lesser cultures should be intervened with no matter what and brought into line with the “mainstream” thinking of the “modern” humans, basta! I found that a bit distasteful. The social dreaming nonsense about no one having to work unless they wanted to was a bit misplaced in an otherwise reasonably intelligent story as well.
Apart from that I quite enjoyed the book. I found the story and the rationale behind the “magical” powers quite interesting and fun to read. Most of it is spent on scientific exploration trying to understand the seemingly magical powers that some elements of the population appears to have. Near the end of the book it does heat up with a bit of action though.
although the book definitely have an adequate conclusion such that you do not feel cheated at the end it does leave a fair amount of unclosed threads of which especially one is hopefully going to be the foundation for a follow-up book. The author seems to have the intention that this will indeed be the first book in a series (Inverse Shadows).
If a follow-up book is made I will definitely pick it up. Actually, this was the first book by this author that I have read and, given the qualities of this one, I will more than likely have a go at a few more books from Christopher Nuttall.