The Stark Divide (Liminal Sky Book 1), by J. Scott Coatsworth

The Stark Divide, Liminal Sky Book 1, by J. Scott Coatsworth book coverGenre: Western Fantasy
Publisher: DSP Publications
Published: 2017
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Reviewer: David L. Felts

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I struggled a bit with the genre categorization of The Stark Divide, by J. Scott Coatsworth. At first consideration, it seems like a pretty straightforward space-setting science fiction tale. But there are strong elements of end-of-the world that drive a portion of the narrative. And then there are the organic space ships humans have developed, run by similarly organic artificial intelligences called “world minds”, as well as the occasional pseudo-medieval settings, both real and virtual. These addition, while fun, edge it into science fantasy for me, so that’s where I decided to stack it.

The book unfolds in series of three interconnected tales, with significant time gaps between them. In this future (how far is never specifically stated) our abuse of the environment has finally brought the Earth to the brink of collapse, with wars being fought over resources and livable land. A disaster called The Burn, killed millions, The Earth is an ecological disaster, and the humans left are barely surviving.

In order to save (some of) the human race, three generation ships are constructed, made out of hollowed out asteroids and “living” AI world minds grown by humans who are able to reshape the asteroids to make them habitable by humans. 43 Ariadne (aka Forever) is one of them, a self-contained world population by a colony of humans. 

The Stark Divide is separated into three sections. The first is the mission to plant the “Seed” that introduced three of the main characters, as well as the “Seed” will grow into the AI (named Lex, an obvious tribute) that will shape the asteroid. The second beings back one of the founding scientists to the world she helped create. And the third and final gives us the collapse of Earth and departure of Forever toward what will hopefully be humanity’s new home.

I suppose I should mention that this book has LGBTQ characters. Not a big deal to me, but I thought it was a positive that The Stark Divide brings real-life diversity into its pages, where sexuality is presented as an integral part of the human experience, but how that sexuality and the relationships manifested through it aren’t a big deal. Just how it should be in the real world.

The decline of the Earth was believably extrapolated, the organic aspects of the AIs and spaceships well presented, and the writing was up to the task of the story it told. Well worth a read.

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