Ungent Draaf, the Grashardi ambassador to the Dralein, expected his assignment to be exceptionally ordinary. He’d make a few agreements with the locals, explore the new planet to discover the interests, and just hope that the Terran Protectorate wasn’t on his heels trying to broker disadvantageous power deals with the native species; however, the middle-aged crustacean life form finds himself assigned a role in a centuries-old conflict between creators and created that threatens to destroy everything he knows and perhaps the known universe.
Mark Laporta’s first series of novels, The Changing Hearts of Ixdahan Daherek, was a young adult look at the interconnectedness of the universe, and his latest novel, Probability Shadow, takes that idea and expands it for an older audience. Themes of betrayal, the responsibility of creators, and consent and agency blend with a smashing SF world, populated with an incredibly diverse cast. If you enjoy good storytelling with unique characters, I highly recommend giving this novel a try.
Probability Shadow contains a plethora of characters in all shapes, sizes, non-human races, genders, etc., so each reader will find someone to be the entry point into Laporta’s world. To my surprise, I latched onto Ungent, a gigantic, lobster-like non-human, as my avatar into the story, and it wasn’t just because he is the first-introduced character. His dignity, pain over his failing marriage and loss of his daughter, love of fine dining, and firm belief in the equality of all life forms warmed me to him, and it didn’t hurt that, despite his age and large girth, Ungent continued to indulge in a spirit of adventure. Other readers might identify with Shol, the Krezovic teen sent to Ungent for “teaching;” Trinity, Shol’s human love interest; the Chaudron, Bledraun’s leader/representative; Warvhex, a symbiote; or any of the numerous humanoid cast sprinkled across the pages.
My only minor complaint with Probability Shadow is that the scope is so immense that it took me at least 100 pages to parse the plot line as a whole. The myriad separate threads had me wondering about the ultimate through line to the story; however, once everything began coalescing, I couldn’t put the book down. I had to know if our protagonists could successfully save the universe…at least this time.
I don’t read a lot of sweeping space epics, simply because many of them fall apart when you examine them too closely. Mark Laporta’s writing balances a huge scope with engaging characters, so I stayed engaged throughout, and as I’ve thought about the book in the days since turning the final page, I’ve realized the thematic depth woven into the space battles and extraterrestrial shenanigans. Probability Shadow combines the best of space opera and SF by giving readers an entertaining adventure that leaves something a little heavier to dwell on after the last enemy space ship has exploded into the vacuum.
4 Daring Space Trips Along the Fremdel Event Horizon out of 5
Creative Team: Mark Laporta
Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books
Click here to purchase.