The Shoreless Sea is the third book in the Liminal Sky series and is best enjoyed when read in order. I read The Rising Tide (book 2) and felt a little lost at the beginning of that one, having missed The Stark Divide (book 1), but I was well-positioned to pick up The Shoreless Sea.
This is a sci-fi adventure series that features a lot of LGTBQI characters, but there isn’t a lot of romance. There are partnerships that occur, but they are not the main focus of the story, and there is little more than casual touching, kissing, or comfort on the page.
The “world” here is a generation ship called Forever that has an AI consciousness running the millions of processes necessary to mostly a mostly self-contained ecosystem. Within the giant ship, there are night and day operations, weather, climate, development of mountains, rivers, lakes, farmland, animals etc. Forever occasionally captures asteroids that it digests over the course of years to add raw materials to the internal ecosystem, which houses the remnants of humanity who escaped from Earth prior to the Collapse. Forever has been in space for 40-50 years now, and the new generations are forgetting that Earth was a real place—they think it a myth told to scare the populace into resource rationing. The AI consciousness running Forever is currently built from a biomind of two residents, Andy and Shandra—wives who have Liminal powers. They can interact directly with the world mind and have raised their own children, as well as dozens of orphaned children of a crazed Liminal, Davian, who wanted ultimate power and dominion in Forever. Previous Liminals that helped build the biomind of Forever included the three architects of Forever, notably Andy’s grandfather, Jackson. Jackson had battled and defeated a rogue biomind, Lilith, in a previous story.
At the beginning of this book, Andy and Shandra’s son and daughter, Kiryn and Bellyn, are away at school when their Liminal powers are attacked. They do not know this adversary, but immediately find out it is willing to kill to gain control of their powers. It seems that an iterative series of Jackson’s memories have spawned what they call the Inthworld—a connected set of virtual worlds where the inhabitants believe they are alive. One of these Inthworlders, Gordon, was a real friend of young Jackson back in the drowned wreck of New York City. Gordon didn’t realize he was a virtual memory until his virtual consciousness is pulled into the body of a Forever man by a ritual he happened across. He imprints on his host, a brain-dead man, and is co-opted into the Intifada, a collection of virtual persons who want to take over the living hosts on Forever to escape their crumbling AI lives. This is made possible by the activity of Lilith, a half-mad biomind who keeps domain over the Inthworld. She wants to run Forever, and doesn’t care if humanity survives.
Kiryn, his new boyfriend Dax, Bellyn’ and Gordon join up to battle Lilith, with the help of Andy, Shandra, and their world mind counterparts. Defeat of the Inthworld intifada invasion must happen to keep Forever alive, but it may not be enough to save them forever.
The books are all well-written and the pace is brisk as we jump from mind to mind in this menagerie of POV story. It’s a masterful job to keep all the storylines working together and building upon one another. Like The Rising Tide, The Shoreless Sea has three parts that span three timeframes and three existential threats to the humans and virtual entities aboard Forever. It’s an epic story with a firm foot in the sci-fi genre. I really enjoyed the ethical and moral questions raised, including how to treat virtual lives—they believe they are alive, so should they be treated with care, or wiped out when inconvenient? There are also issues surrounding the role of government and the prejudice against people that are different—in this case the Liminals who have enhanced powers to contact each other and the world mind, versus the “homonormals.” It’s a reflection of the manner in which humanity perseveres and yet persecutes in the same span of time.
If you like sci-fi, or stories featuring the futurescape of humanity, this series is one worth checking out. I really enjoyed both of the books I read.