First-time novelist C.A. Higgins has a degree in physics that informs every exciting moment of her first book, Lightless, a brilliant, speculative look at artificial intelligence. The novel takes place aboard the military spacecraft Ananke, the most mysterious and powerful ship in the System, a planet-spanning totalitarian government that uses omnipresent cameras to guarantee the loyalty of its citizens.

Computer expert and ship mechanic Althea has formed a surprising, wordless bond with the computer system that manages every bit of the Ananke's day-to-day existence, including life support, propulsion, food and air. Captain Domitian and chief scientist Gagnon provide human contact, but it's the ship and its complex levels of code and instructions that Althea truly loves.

When terrorists board the Ananke, bypassing the space vessel's security, Althea is both appalled by the attack and intrigued by its technical prowess, and helps to capture the leader of the raid. Leontios Ivanov is a charismatic, highly intelligent man, who has layers upon layers of complexity brought to light when an egocentric and perhaps sociopathic System operative arrives on the Ananke to interrogate Ivanov.

Matters start to get scary as Althea loses control of her ship. Ananke begins to show signs of its own chaotic intelligence, and the crew wonders how much worse their circumstances can get. The claustrophobic, tightly woven story of Lightless shows a new talent at full beam. C.A. Higgins is a bright new star in the genre of hard SF. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

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