Lost Solace by Karl Drinkwater (Narrated by Marisha Tapera)
Publisher: Karl Drinkwater | Release Date: Jan. 18, 2019 | Runtime: 6 hours and 59 minutes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sometimes ships mysteriously disappear in space, marooned amongst the stars, cut off from all forms of communication, their whereabouts unknown. But sometimes…sometimes, these lost ships come back.
Such is the premise of Karl Drinkwater’s Lost Solace, which finds former military grunt, Opal, hijacking an experimental ship and hacking its AI in order to recover one of these lost vessels. What she finds, though, is not entirely what she expects. The lost ship has been altered in odd ways, an alien fungus clinging to its interior walls, and the odd feeling of…something…a presence inhuman. Finding herself aboard an otherwise desolate ghost ship is one thing; being pursued by the military looking to recover their stolen ship and court martial her on all kinds of various charges is another, a particular complication she doesn’t need but must contend with. Or die trying.
Drinkwater layers Lost Solace with a number of mysteries, first and foremost being the secrets behind the derelict cruise liner, both its disappearance and its transformation. But there’s also the question of why Opal stole the specific ship she did, why the military is so desperate to get it back, and why she has reprogrammed the ship’s AI to model a woman named Clarissa.
Surrounding all these mysteries is plenty of action. Every step of Opal’s journey is complicated further and further by outside forces, and it’s always interesting to see what the author has up his sleeve to force his protagonist into a position of struggle. Drinkwater excels at making Opal struggle, wrinkling every one of her plans with unexpected dangers and opposition.
Thankfully, Opal is up to these challenges. She’s an intelligent and resourceful heroine, one who relies on her brains just as much as, if not more-so than, her brawn. She’s smart and bold, and Drinkwater constantly keeps you guessing how she’s going to get out of whatever particular corner she’s been boxed into. Clarissa is an excellent counterpart, both friend and ally, to Opal, and their relationship develops a richness the more it deepens, borne initially out of a fight for survival, but also a mutual admiration and respect. As an artificial intelligence, Clarissa is clearly smarter than Opal thanks to raw processing power, but both find ways to complement each other in both skills and brains.
Complementing the material nicely is Marisha Tapera, who reads Lost Solace with solid efficiency. She has a good vocal range, giving Opal, Clarissa, Clarissa’s unhacked default AI mode, and the various tertiary characters that weave in and out of the story their own distinct voices and characteristics. There’s no mistaking one character for another. Her Opal has a confident authority befitting her skills and military tenure, whereas her Clarissa is very young, almost childish in tone, which helps to emphasize the relationship between these two figures marvelously.
Lost Solace is an intelligent work of science fiction, one that is quite literally built around the brain of its smart, highly adept female (or female-identifying in the case of the AI) protagonists. It’s packed with plenty of action, to be sure, but it’s much, much smarter than your typical run-and-gun sci-fi romp.