The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher (Tor, March 2014)-This book gave me the creeps, and that’s a good thing. We all have our scary places, and the vast darkness of outer space is one of mine. I’m simultaneously awed and terrified by it, so setting a creepy story there is bound to tweak all of my nightmare nerves. Anyway, Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland (Ida) is a hero after saving a whole planet from the goliath “Spiders” that devour entire planets. You’d think he’d be celebrated for such a feat, but instead, he’s on retirement duty on Coast City, a space station that is being decommissioned piece by piece. The crew doesn’t like him, and a few of them show that dislike in a physical manner very soon after he arrives, and, if pressed, he’d admit that he’s lonely. He’s also shocked that the crew doesn’t treat him with the respect that he deserves after his heroic mission, and they think he’s a liar. It doesn’t bode well for his stay on the space station, ostensibly to oversee its decommissioning.
Soon, Ida puts together a space radio that can pick up signals from subspace, or Hellspace. A lone female voice from far away is the only thing he has to curb the loneliness. Well, that voice and a ship medic named Izananami, who seems to be the only one that believes that he saved an entire planet. Soon, a spaceminer/celebrity named Zia Hollywood arrives, along with her entourage, and this is where things start going very, very wrong. It doesn’t help that a nearby star, called Shadow, is seemingly making people see things and is a looming specter over the increasingly terrifying events.
Adam Christopher takes the best parts of a good haunted house story, and sets it in space. Shadows that seem to move on their own, the disembodied voice from a thousand years ago, and people disappearing into thin air, come together in a narrative that will make those little hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The Burning Dark has a very claustrophobic feel, but the vastness of space rightthere is a great contrast. In space, if the habitat you’re in becomes dangerous, where can you go? This book has been compared to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and that’s apt. Christopher goes for the subtle scares, and this kind of quiet terror is made even more striking in the space setting. So, if gothic scares in spaaaaace are your thing, you’ll love this. I also love the idea of a giant spider-like alien race that can eat entire planets. I’m really looking forward to The Machine Awakes.