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    Space Opera at its Finest

    Having read Stephen Graham King's wonderful short fiction before (in NORTH OF INFINITY II, where his "Pas de deux" was the gem of the collection), I knew when I opened CHASING COLD that I was about to delve into a story which delighted in characters both deep and intricately tangled - and I wasn't let down in the slightest. At its heart, CHASING COLD's story is a journey. Humanity as been left with nothing but the worst worlds after the Flense arrived and forced humanity to leave the lush and fertile planets behind over a century ago. Rogan Tyso is one of the descendents of these survivors, living on a frozen planet (the aptly named Frostbite) and working to keep his colony connected to the others through messages received along their network. When an opportunity presents itself for him to leave - and potentially make a real, humanity-altering change - Rogan boards one of the few ships still flying and leaves his home, his family, and everything he has ever known for this possible future. That a handsome and intriguing man also awaits on the other end of the trip doesn't hurt, but even in this there is the tremble in Rogan's thoughts - "What if?" looms throughout the story; what if this is the wrong decision? What if Rogan himself isn't up to the challenge? What if the whole thing turns out to be a mistake? The core (and strength) of the story is in this decision. Journeying with Rogan, the complexity of King's character unfolds as he struggles to keep up with whole worlds that are new to him, and his interactions with the ship's crew are a joy to read (one of the best cast of characters I've read in a space opera styled book in a long time). King also delivers a wonderful "after the fall" spread of cultures that we glimpse through Rogan's eyes, from Frostbite itself (where people think nothing of piling into bed together for communal warmth and comfort) to the harsher realities of too many people crammed into too small a space. There's a verisimilitude here that was carefully crafted. Make no mistake, the journey is the destination - but I will say that the ultimate destination itself doesn't disappoint. It's been a long time since I enjoyed a piece of space opera science fiction this much.

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