A Tunnel in the Sky

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Destroyer of Light
by Jennifer Marie Brissett

Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted October 4, 2021

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Thanks to Edelweiss for the opportunity to read this book early. Destroyer of Light will be published next week, October 12. It's a complicated, sometimes confusing book, mainly because it is not told in a linear fashion. It took me some time before I realized the chapter headings of "Dawn, 10 years ago," "Night, 8 years ago," or "Dusk, 3 weeks ago," were not referring to the time of day. Instead, those are geographical areas of the planet Eleusis, which is tidally locked with its sun. A narrow strip around the globe is where the majority of the human refugees live, Dusk being the most economically developed, with Dawn home to poor farmers. Night is the dark and very cold hiding place of a rebel faction led by Aidoneus Okoni. Day doesn't figure into the story until the climax. The time stamps jump back and forth, giving us alternate views of certain scenes, or what led up to events already revealed. Another confusing element is the mix of third-person narrative with first-person, with two different characters providing the narration there, plus at least one section has a mix of first and second-person.

Cora is a young girl abducted by the rebels. Alternate chapters have her relating her ordeal, before, during, and after her association with them. The other first-person narrator is not identified until much later, but I started to suspect that was also Cora in another guise. We already knew her by two different names, Okoni calling her Stefonie. It seemed possible she could also be Cate, especially after we learn Cora has very special abilities, which may involve movement through time. Another character also goes by two different names. The first time we meet Doso, the ex-nanny of a missing boy, we have no clue that she is someone we had met before under another name, in a scene set ten years earlier. Call it fate, or call it coincidence, but there are many connections between characters and events that take a while to become apparent. The twin brothers hired to find the missing boy have an associate named Freddie, who happens to be the shuttle pilot who brought Cora to the city. Cora knew the location of the boy they're looking for, back in the rebel camp, but her first encounter with the twins takes an unexpected turn, so that information isn't revealed to them until later.

Cora, the twins, the missing boy, and several others, have mysterious abilities, the result of genetic manipulation while in cryonic stasis during the long starship voyage from Earth to Eleusis, or later for some born on the new planet. The who, what, and why of that is shrouded in mystery for a long time. Some of it could be the result of natural mutations due to unique conditions on Eleusis. There are also aliens on Eleusis, not natives, but who arrived after the humans. They are called krestge. That sounded familiar, so I check backed, and sure enough, those were the aliens who had invaded Earth in Brissett's first novel, Elysium. This could be considered a direct sequel, but there are enough differences in the way the krestge are described to make it seem an alternate story, so it's not necessary to read the earlier book, although it is also recommended. In Elysium they were given the nickname 'roaches' due to their appearance. Here they have a nebulous shape, since they can shift through dimensional space as well as time. One of the main crops grown in Dawn is kremer, a major food source, but an alternate method of growth produces the drug escoala, which is illegal but also widely used. Humans like it for the intoxicating effects, with some becoming second-hand smokers for krestge, whose bodies grow more solid when exposed to its vapors.

If you're looking for a light-hearted story, all sunshine and flowers, look elsewhere. But if you're up to the challenge of the fragmented narrative you'll be rewarded with a powerful story of perseverance and hope. Cora might seem to be a tool of Okoni most of the time, but she has a mind of her own. It's only another coincidence that her moral imperative happens to coincide with Okoni's plans. The rebels say the krestge can't be trusted, and want them driven off the planet, or completely eliminated. The fact the rebels are right does not absolve them of the crimes they have committed against other humans, including abduction, torture, murder, and rape. Several of those scenes are repellent, so take this as a content warning. Some readers would probably prefer a more straight forward, linear approach, but I like complexity, even confusion, at least some of the time. As to another bit of confusion, Cate is not a future version of Cora. Cate is not even human. She's not krestge either, but I won't reveal her true nature. You'll have to read to find out for yourself.


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Jennifer Marie Brissett

October 12, 2021

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