Edge of Dark (The Glittering Edge)
by Brenda Cooper
Cover Artist: Stephan Martiniere
Review by Wes Breazeale
Pyr Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781633880504
Date: 03 March 2015 List Price $18.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Though it started out as a derogatory term, "space opera" is now big business in the publishing world and an exciting sub-genre in SF literature. Find an author you like and chances are you've found yourself quite a bit of reading material for the future!
Brenda Cooper is not necessarily a household name for most fans, but she is an established writer who has also worked in collaboration with Larry Niven, a household name for many. A technology professional and futurist by trade, Cooper's books are both expansive and personal.
Edge of Dark is the beginning of a new duology set in the same galaxy as her last two booksóRuby's Song and The Diamond Deep. Those two books are not necessary reads to enjoy Edge of Dark, though certainly those who have read them will appreciate some of the back-story that is casually referenced. But Edge of Dark stands on its own and is a very enjoyable book. [Reviewer's note: I had not previously read any of Cooper's work, but found Edge of Dark easy to follow.]
Edge of Dark features three main protagonists. Nona Hall, a young professor at a university on the largest station in the system. She also happens to be the daughter of one of heroes of the rebellion that helped establish said system. Though loathe to take advantage of her position, she is most certainly one of the privileged. Charlie Windar is a ranger on the planet Lym. Part of a family that has been working for generations to restore the planet to its original wildness, Charlie is somewhat of a loner. He gets dragged into Nona's world when she visits the planet to honor the memory of her mother and father.
Finally, at the edges of their system, Nona's childhood friend Chrystal lives in a small station, almost a commune of sorts, working on genetically modified grazing animals that can live in the stations. Unfortunately for her and her four-person marriage, their station lies dangerously close to the permanent border zone where humanity long ago banished a group of human-robot hybrids. Unfortunate, because those robotic intelligences are now looking to come home.
Despite being set in an incredibly advanced far-future, the story itself feels intimate. Cooper doesn't focus on technology in the way some harder SF writers might, and she doesn't revel in the minutia of space battles. She focuses most of her time on building relationships to create the underpinnings of the story and setting the stage for explorations of individual and societal decisions. Without being too overbearing, she addresses some questions of social change, ecological responsibility, and ultimately, what is the root of our humanity and how will we evolve in the future?
Edge of Dark is a fun and enjoyable read that will have you looking forward to the sequel--and perhaps seeking out Cooper's earlier work in the same system. Enough questions are asked and answered to keep the reader satisfied, but also left open to explore in the second book.