cover image Architects of Memory

Architects of Memory

Karen Osborne. Tor, $17.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-21547-5

Osborne’s promising but uneven debut is a twisty, political space opera about corporate espionage and alien contact. Ashlan “Ash” Jackson, a scrappy and traumatized salvage pilot determined to buy citizenship into the corporation-state of Aurora, does her best to hide both her degenerative neural disease and her on-again-off-again relationship with her captain, Kate Keller. When Ash and Kate’s crew is sent to an old battlefield, Ash salvages a mysterious piece of alien technology, sparking an arms race, as various factions fight to gain control of the technology. Osborne’s worldbuilding shines: the rival corporations are seductive, manipulative, and inescapable, and the constraints on Ash’s life as an “uncitizen” are palpable. Unfortunately, most of the characters never quite come to life, and the endless betrayals and reveals leave readers little time to get their bearings. In this overstuffed plot, Ash’s strange connection to the alien technology—which leads her to have borderline-psychedelic experiences—packs the biggest punch. Despite the flaws, Osborne sticks the landing, delivering a bleak, believable ending that balances horror and hope. Space opera enthusiasts will enjoy this fast-paced tale and look forward to more from Osborne. Agent: Dorian Maffei, Kimberley Cameron & Assoc. (Aug.)