TITLE: The Stark Divide
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Publisher: DSP Publications
Characters: various LGBTQ/straight. Although there are relationships, the focus of this story isn’t a romance.
Sub-Genre: Series, Science Fiction
Some stories are epic.
The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.
Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.
From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.
Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.
When I read a book by J. Scott Coatsworth I know I’m going to be treated to a story with fabulous world building, and interesting characters. The Stark Divide has all of that and more. One thing I really loved about this story is that although there are romances, they don’t drive it. Also it is populated by diverse characters with differing sexualities IE gay, straight, bi, and trans, which is accepted by this society in the future. The issues here aren’t that, but how mankind has ruined the Earth, both ecologically and because of war. The author has done a great job in taking current concerns and extrapolating where they might lead the future human race if we continue on our current course. The tent city for refugees in one part of the story echoed current news stories scarily well.
I loved the nods to other SF authors, such as Asimov and McCaffrey. Some were direct mentions, others more subtle.
The world building is interesting, and different to anything I’ve read before. Although the ship-mind has echoes of Anne McCaffrey’s ship series, Coatsworth uses it as a springboard, and flies. The ship-mind, world-mind, and station-mind are interesting, developed characters, as are the humans who take centre stage in this story. The idea of growing a planet using biological technology is brilliant, and it was obvious the more I read that it is very well thought out. I also liked how the author split the book into three different time periods, each one jumping forward from the previous. It gives the story an epic feel, which is perfect for what it is—the rebirth of the human race on another world told through the perspective of not only those who are key players in that journey but of the world itself, and the generation ship it becomes. The linking of time periods through both older versions of already familiar characters, and the introduction of the next generation was nicely done, as was the expansion of the planet-mind.
I liked too, that the characters are very human, and take the time to cry, whether in relief or grief. I felt as though I was reading about real people. Not all of them have the greatest of intentions, they make mistakes, and are often driven by emotions that are a mix of good and not so good.
The descriptive of space is wonderfully emotive—“the stars poking brilliant holes in the firmament above.” The descriptions of Forever—the name given to the world by the colonists—are not overdone as to bog down the story, yet make the setting very easy to visualise. I spent several evenings getting lost in the story and staying up far too late in order to read just one more chapter.
I’d recommend The Stark Divide to readers who enjoy science fiction with detailed world building, interesting characters, and an epic story. Highly recommended.
Reviewed By: Anne
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