Wow. So, disclaimer, I am not at all proficient or good at hard science, in fact I have an affinity for softer social sciences instead, but wow – this book amazing despite the hard science (that I didn’t initially understand) that is littered throughout it.
Eternal Shadow by Trevor B Williams is the perfect sci-fi read for people who like hard science in their fiction- though I cannot comment on it’s accuracy myself, I can say it is incredibly believable and draws you further into the story!
Eternal Shadow follows the story of Dr Jennifer Epstein and Samantha Monroe (Sam) as the primary scientists who work at SETI (a scientific institution) where they monitor space. The book starts with Sam finding an irregular reading coming from space, specifically Pluto. She, being a star mathematician, calculates and recalculates the signal in order to find the source. After triple checking that it is a new and unusual occurrence, she calls Jennifer (Jen) who, trusting Sam’s maths, heads straight to the institute where she leads the team on a task to find out what is going on. The team soon realise that the signal moved to another planet – after having ‘consumed’ or destroyed Pluto. This causes panic amongst the scientific community which quickly attempts to unite in order to track and identify the ship doing this damage. The panic spreads through the country and becomes a cause of political concern, as well as creating questions about humanity’s survival. However, we also follow the story from Muzie’s (Muzikayise) perspective. He runs Khulu Global and sees this event as a way to potentially increase his own earnings and visibility in the long run, thus, he offers his services to help with building equipment to deal with this astronomical problem. Unfortunately, while the majority of characters are attempting to communicate with the monster/ship and help save the Earth, a group of religious fanatics – who believe this is the apocalypse/Armageddon/God’s will (The group have taken elements of Christianity/Catholicism and warped it to fit their belief instead of looking at the facts of the religious passages i.e Armageddon only occurs when the armies of heaven will fight those who are Satan’s, or when Michael will fight Lucifer etc…) Because of this warped belief system they attempt many attacks to prevent the scientists from saving the Earth – which causes untold amounts of issues.
When you first start the book you are thrown into the science straight away, and yet even for someone like me who literally did not understand it you still feel the correct emotions of excitement and curiosity for what is going on for two reasons; Firstly, Trevor B Williams, is a wonderful writer who is able to create the perfect tone and atmosphere to engage the reader and have them connect emotionally to the text. Secondly, because he has created such a dynamic character that, even from the start, you love her – and by that I of course mean Sam ! Moreover, as you read more of the book the science becomes much simpler to understand and is explained very well through character dialogue or through their actions – which cleverly avoids it feeling too informative and instead makes the science feel organic and understandable.
The plot itself is extremely original and intriguing. Throughout the story you are constantly questioning what the alien/ship’s (dubbed the leviathan) intentions are, whether or not it is actually alive, and whether or not humanity will survive. However, though the main crux of the plot is based around the leviathan and whether or not it can/should be contacted and explored, we also get to see conflict in other ways. Such as the religious extremists vs the scientists (a sociological issue that is inherent and relevant despite our growing secularisation) and the conflict as to whether or not an AI is alive or just a machine. These conflicts and scientific debates are intriguing and keep the story interesting as it allows the reader to evaluate their views and allows us insight into the characters which makes them feel real, more in-depth and more human. This in turn builds pathos for the characters that the reader readily accepts and enjoys as we can connect with the characters. Moreover, Williams portrays the extremists in a clever way- that is he portrays them as they truly are, a group led by someone who has selected and manipulate specific elements of their chosen religion, Christianity, and used it support their beliefs and violent actions. This conflict is the primary cause of many issues and events that occur and makes for an action packed novel.
Furthermore, the story is never stagnant due to all these intertwined elements, debates and themes. The ending to the novel is shocking, unexpected and it BROKE MY HEART! However, the resolution is also satisfying, intriguing and raises many more questions. This is significantly due to the change in narrative at the end where we get a small snippet of another characters conversation that we don’t get to see throughout the novel- this gives us the insight to the truth. Moreover, the epilogue is also satisfying and interesting and allows us to see the progress and ideas that have developed in the future-which just makes us want to know even more. The ending of the novel leaves us with a sense of progress, intrigue and emotion.
The characters that Trevor B Williams has created are so key to the success of this novel as they are interesting, in-depth and diverse in sexuality, ethnicity and personality so they feel real and reflective of an actual society. In case you hadn’t picked up on my hints just yet- my favourite character in this entire novel was Sam. She is funny, clever, outspoken and accepting of everyone and herself and I love her character so much!
Moreover, the relationships between the character are realistic, complex and reflective of their personalities. For example, Sam and Jennifer’s relationship is wonderful as we get to see it build up right from the start, they gel so well together, despite that they can be polar opposites at times, and inherently understand one and other due to the amount of time they have known and worked together. In contrast to this, Muzie and Ami’s relationship is more distant, they are professional and know each other well but emotionally they have many differences. However, this relationship also evolves well through the story and matches with their personalities. Each character is so distinct and their relationships so complex and individual that it is so realistic and fun to read about.
Trevor B Williams has created such an original story with such amazing characters that it is not surprising that I loved it. This is definitely a sci-fi that should be in you TBR’s .
If you love hard Sci-Fi you will definitely love this, and if you don’t I still recommend giving it a try, it may initially seem difficult to get into and understand but its definitely rewarded!
*I received a free eARC of #EternalShadow from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*