PUBLICATION DATE: APRIL 01, 2010
ietz neatly sums up the end of A Star Curiously Singing at the beginning of The Superlative Stream, in the form of a message from Sandfly’s owner. This neatly recaps everything that had gone on in the first book, and does it in a slightly humorous tone, as Master Allam Hami distances himself from the damage done to the space station and the disappearance of the “angel of the deep” the ship Dark Trench.
Dark Trench is a ship unlike any other, able to ‘flip’ from space normal to a place not quite in space and ‘goes back to go forward’ using dark matter. He possesses an AI so advanced, it’s self-aware. He develops a personality and a penchant for using different aromas released through the air vents to express his feelings.
It’s intriguing to note that Dark Trench is male, not female, as most ships are gendered. His gender fits perfectly within the world Nietz has created, as a Sharia law society would not have female ships. This is a subtle, but brilliant touch.
During the journey to Betelgeuse, HardCandy and Sandfly share deeply with one another, so deeply, that Sand Fly sometimes dreams her memories. Through her memories, HardCandy’s world view, back ground, and desperate hunger for salvation are revealed. While some of this is believable and sadly based on actual events, parts of her back story hiccup. It’s exceedingly difficult to believe that HardCandy’s father valued her enough to do what he did.
This is a world where a girl being burned to death in a school fire is preferable to her being outside without her covering. For me, her father’s actions were a sour note in her story. Her mother is much more believable, if less loving of a character.
One of the highlights of HardCandy’s back story is how it intersects with GrimJack’s tale. What he does for her is not only believable, but cements him as my favorite character in the series.
Millions of light-years away from Master Allam Hami and the limping space station, Dark Trench runs into problems. The highly intuitive ship has arrived at the star Betelgeuse, but it’s not the same as when he first visited there. He reluctantly wakes Sandfly and Hard Candy to apprise them of the issue.
There’s a planet in orbit around the Red Giant and it wasn’t there when he came with TallSpot and Handler, members of the original crew. Planets don’t pop into existence in eight days, and stream sources don’t simply vanish. Or do they?
Sandfly and HardCandy convince Dark Trench to send down a sampler to the planet, and the plot click-clacks to a slightly higher speed.
Just as A Star Curiously Singing was a slow-boil book, so is The Superlative Stream.
Once HardCandy and Sandfly make it to the surface of the newly discovered planet, a familiar sense of unease begins to creep between Nietz words.
HardCandy begins immediately to draw parallels between the planet and the theology that shapes her life. Sandfly isn’t as ready to believe they’ve arrived in paradise, or that Shem, Ham, and Japheth, their new humanoid friends, are as benign as they claim to be.
At this point in the book, Nietz begins wrestling with some serious theology. This is thinly veiled as three separate outlooks Shem, Ham, and Japheth hold about the nature of the universe, about where life came from, and the ultimate end of every being. He does this extremely well, avoiding turning the book into a philosophical treatise, but it does ratchet the story speed down once more.
Sandfly and Hard Candy face several difficult choices. When she is injured by her own mental stops, they turn to their new friends for help and are assimilated by the alien race.
Only a hard kick from outside, from the Creator of the superlative stream, brings them back to themselves and offers them a chance to escape.
The Superlative Stream is a cerebral meander through questions of belief and what does it mean to be ‘full impact’ with your Creator. It’s a slow journey, but having traveling companions like Dark Trench, HardCandy, and SandFly make it worthwhile.