When a set of post humans, the Next, long ago banished to the edge of their society’s solar system, start making aggressive moves down the gravity well, no one is safe from their maneuvers and machinations. Not Chrystal, living on the High Sweet Home with her four-part family, who is attacked by The Next. Not Nona, Chrystal’s friend, and descendant of the famous Ruby Martin of The Creative Fire, who would risk much to see to Chrystal’s safety. And not Charlie, Ranger on the ecologically devastated planet Lym. Post humanity clashes with humanity, and a solar system wide conflict is brewing, even as these three seek to find a way to survive the danger and find answers, for themselves, and each other.
Edge of Dark is the first novel in the Glittering Edge duology by Brenda Cooper.
The Glittering Edge duology is set in the Lym solar system, which readers of Cooper’s work first encountered in The Diamond Deep. In that novel, the generation ship The Creative Fire returned to the Lym solar system after a centuries-long journey, only to be caught up with machinations and political winds of change. In the midst of this, Ruby Martin’s key encounter with a member of The Next proves to be a foreshadowing of the events of this novel.
This is only the beginning of a rich background that Cooper presents us. From the wounded planet Lym, destroyed by ecological catastrophe long ago and only now being rehabilitated, to the various ships and stations of the solar system, and the world of the Next, the author indulges in intricate and fascinating worldbuilding. Given that this takes place in another solar system (with only tenuous mythological references to Earth), Cooper feels free to indulge in making parallels and allusions to our own world and its problems in a classic science fictional method.
Further, issues like environmental collapse and rescue, the problems, challenges and opportunities of posthumanism and transhumanism are effectively and interestingly explored. Hannu Rajaniemi’s stories and novels, as an example of an author currently working in this space, drop the reader into posthuman concerns and a posthuman world. without any preamble. Cooper’s method is a slower, more organic introduction to similar ideas. In this way, Cooper’s writing reminds me of another writer exploring posthumanism and transhumanism, her fellow futurist Madeline Ashby. Readers of one are likely familiar with the other, and if not, should be.
The cross cutting and jumping of action lets us see the beats of action through the environments, technologies and concepts that the characters encounter, often with the wonder of first encounter. Chrystal learns how to deal with the Next’s world, and her changed state, even as Nona learns that large bodies of water are beautiful, and utterly dangerous. Later, as politics and events draw the characters toward each other, the terrain and worldbuilding evolve from the physical to intricate political landscapes that Chrystal, Charlie and Nona all must face and work through.
But it is the inner and outer life of the characters are where Cooper really shines, though. Charlie, Nona and Chrystal are our primary viewpoints through the novel. Chrystal’s journey into forced transhumanism is a nuanced and intriguing look at posthumanity through the lens of someone who didn’t want it, but is forced to deal with the consequences (as is the rest of her family). Nona and Charlie form a bond even as both have fish out of water experiences — first Nona on the planet Lym, itself, learning what it is to be under a sky and away from hard vacuum, and then Charlie learning to deal with life away from skies, waterfalls, mountains and oceans. All three grow, change and evolve their relationships with each other, and within themselves as well.
Even the minor elements and characters of the novel come through strongly. Charlie’s three-legged canid Tongat, Cricket, is a wonderful metaphor for the planet Lym itself. Cricket is permanently wounded, but an apex predator nevertheless that Charlie and everyone else can and do care for — but at the same time must most definitely respect. Other minor characters, ranging from the mysterious trader Gunnar Ellensson to the politically powerful Satayana, come across very well.
Like the Ruby’s Song duology, and most of Brenda Cooper’s work, really, The Edge of Dark is a wonderful fusion of the character’s futurist and science fiction vision with well drawn characters and character dynamics that propel the plot and action. Although I recommend reading The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep first, The Edge of Dark stands very well on its own, and is an excellent entry into solar system space opera.
Find out more about Brenda Cooper and The Glittering Edge Universe in our Skiffy and Fanty podcast interview with Brenda.