Sunday, 3 July 2022

Chasing Solace by Karl Drinkwater

The legendary Lost Ships exist, and they harbour nightmarish horrors. Opal knows. She barely survived her first encounter with one.

Despite escaping, she failed to find what she was looking for: her lost sister. Now Opal must board a second derelict Lost Ship to seek answers, and it's even more monstrous, a sickening place of death and decay. To make things worse, the military government wants her, dead or alive. Considering their reputation, dead may be better.

To find her sister, Opal will risk everything: her life, her blood, her sanity. There's always a price to pay. Armed with her wits, an experimental armoured suit, and an amazing AI companion, she might just stand a chance.

Chasing Solace is the third book I've now read in Karl Drinkwater's series, after Helene and Lost Solace, and I think it's my favourite yet! The inventive storyline continues Opal's search for her lost sister, Clarissa, and allows greater insights into the weird alien creations that are the Lost Ships.

I loved Drinkwater's detailed descriptions of the new ship that Opal has to explore. Actually I'm not sure that 'loved' is anywhere close to the right word to use here because the Gigatoir made me feel positively nauseous several times! I'm not a keen reader of gory scenes so picturing this grim environment was horribly compelling. Imagine squelchy hints of Heart Of Granite by James Barclay blended with the unearthly atmosphere of I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman, topped with sparkling dialogue and a shockingly exciting narrative, and you've got Chasing Solace. I really appreciated Drinkwater's futuristic evocation of a current situation that I personally find particularly abhorrent. Imagining it taken to Lost Ship extremes doesn't, unfortunately, take a huge leap of faith so the place, while being utterly alien, is also very plausible.

Opal is again accompanied by her little stolen spaceship, the AI awareness ViraUHX who has now reimagined herself as the ancient goddess Athene. She takes full advantage of the potentials of this persona which is brilliant fun to read. The relationship between Opal and Athene is an excellent example of positive female friendship which we see continuing to build and develop as their adventure progresses. If such authentic-feeling women could be widely found in scifi novels, I would read a lot more of them! I'm delighted to have discovered this Lost Ships series and already have another of the companion novellas, Grubane, downloaded to read soon.

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