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Dark Matter
Star Carrier Book 5
by Ian Douglas (aka William H. Keith)
Harper Voyager, $7.99, 370 pp
Published: May 2014

This is one of the best space-opera hard SF series to come along in decades.  Douglas packs a lot of actual science in with his speculative fiction in this saga of humans, AIs, alien civilizations, first contacts, alliances and wars. The scope of action is not only galactic, it’s multiverses.

Star Carrier begins with an alien collective mind that thinks of itself as The Consciousness looking for new ‘verses to explore and mine for resources. To The Consciousness, humans are about as significant as ants or innocuous microbes. This does not sit well with a species accustomed to being the alpha, at least in its own region of the galaxy, and several members of the Space Navy are determined to call attention to themselves in unmistakable ways. These troublema- er, shooters include Lieutenant Walton and Rear Admiral “Sandy” Grey.

Elsewhere, interspecies relations with the Grdoch rapidly deteriorate when their intentions become unmistakable. Lieutenant Connor has her hands full dealing with the fallout. And because things are always changing behind your back, another plotline follows the politically-motivated creation of a religious movement. Frankly, that storyline is much scarier than omnipotent or acquisitive aliens.

Douglas writes in a manner that is part Heinlein, part David Weber, part Asimov, Niven, and Steve Perry.   Like Heinlein, he assumes you are intelligent enough to keep up with him. Like Asimov, he seems to love sharing knowledge. I enjoyed the servings of physics, chemistry, and neuro-science along with the blood and thunder of an action-packed epic. Douglas does a smooth job of integrating science into the story, sometimes lacing it with humor. One of my favorite lines is “Physicists tended to dislike the many-worlds interpretation because it seemed so counter-intuitively wasteful to call an entire universe into existence for the sake of a single photon.” It’s interjections like that which distinguish these books from the herd and make it so worthwhile. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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