In a demilitarized zone on the border of human space, long range spy satellites are mysteriously going quiet, and no one knows why. Captain Susan Kamala and her crew are dispatched to figure out what’s going on and solve the problem.
That problem, however, is a mysterious, bleeding edge alien ship that no human vessel could hope to match in open conflict. But, it’s not spoiling for a fight.
Now, the Captain and her Crew must figure out how to navigate a complicated game of diplomacy, balancing the needs of their corporate overlords, and the honest desire for a lasting peace between the two races, all without letting a long standing cold war turn hot.
With In the Black, author Patrick S. Tomlinson has brought readers a fun space story that is both light and intriguing. The narrative presents an interesting take on the future of intergalactic affairs, imperialism, and alien encounters. I found it to be quite delightful.
I think what I liked the most about In the Black is that it is not what I expected at all. For a book that starts out with a dangerous alien encounter, the narrative takes a few unexpected turns and really ends up in a surprising place. I do not want to say too much for fear of spoiling the plot, but I appreciated the way Tomlinson framed this story and the themes that the book tackles. Also, the unpredictable nature of it created a lot of tension and intrigue that drove the story and kept me interested.
Tomlinson proposes some interesting ideas on aliens in this book, too. The author seems to have stepped away from the standard alien of an unfeeling race more advanced than humans that treats them like insects, presenting instead beings who are just as nuanced as the human race. I also love that some of the book is told from the aliens’ perspective, which, again, is something I have not seen much of in Sci-Fi. Writing the story this way allows the reader to experience the tension in the story from both sides, and I really liked that aspect.
I also liked the fact that it was a pretty light read. I consume a lot of epic fantasy and space opera-type books, and In the Black will never be confused as one of those. It is a much more easy going book to read, and it came along just when I needed something a little breezy.
There were a few times when I questioned the characters decisions or motives, but I think that comes along with taking risks in one’s writing. If one is trying to step out of the box (which, it is clear to me that Tomlinson is with this book), I think there is always the chance that a reader may not agree with everything the characters do. The writing was interesting enough to keep that fact from taking me out of the story too much.
All in all, In the Black was a fun space story with good themes and a unique plot. I recommend this book for fans of Sci-Fi, especially if you are looking for a lighter read.