Dark Class is the fifth book in the Class 5 series and its a wonderful addition to the set. The story of a girl, a space station, and a spookily dangerous and damaged AI, this latest installment shows us a new part of the Grihan universe while introducing us to a variation of a tale as old as time.
Ellie Masters wakes up naked and alone in a weird looking medical facility. She notices almost right away that the area around her is covered in a strange black dust and that the only familiar thing in the place is the music – a collection of pop hits is playing in the background. Wondering if she has lived through some sort of strange apocalypse, she wraps a sheet around herself and heads out of her room to look for other survivors, only to find that she is alone on a space station on an alien moon. That’s a real problem since she’s a librarian, not an astronaut – and because she has no memories of how she got there.
Captain Renn Sorvihn of Grih Battle Center has been tasked with bringing a rogue Tecran ship called Rauha back to United Council territory. Renn’s own ship and the Rauha
have been engaged in a game of cat and mouse for over a month in an uncharted sector of space when the Tecran make a sudden light jump that throws off its pursuers. Determined not to loose his prey, Renn takes a small crew out an a fast moving exploration shuttle to try to find them. He gets a lot more than he bargained for when he finally tracks them down to a secret base on an alien moon.
Meanwhile, Ellie is discovering she is not quite as alone as she thought in that eerie space station. An entity named Paxe talks to her through the speaker system and assures her that he is there to help, a good thing because Ellie has no idea how to survive in this weird new environment at all, a situation made infinitely more difficult when two forces hostile to each other make a sudden appearance and she is forced to choose sides.
If you haven’t read the series before, this is not the place to start. Most of the issues between the Grih and Tecran are explained in the earlier books and you will be lost without that information. Also, Paxe made an important appearance in book three, Dark Minds, and it is helpful to have read that in order to know his backstory.
I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I love the Star Trek vibe of these books. This saga involves advanced technology and an affiliated group of planets, the United Council, which show different species working towards harmony and the greater good. No species is presented as perfect but there is a sense of peace, prosperity and hope which make a nice change from the currently popular trend towards bleak, dystopian futures.
Ms. Diener always writes a calm, intelligent and reasonable Earth-born heroine who, after a few stumbles, fits smoothly into such a world. A large part of that is due to their relationships with the Class 5 (AI) thinking machines, who help them navigate their strange new circumstances, and of course, their interactions with the heroes, who also provide guidance. In this particular case, Ellie’s easy acceptance of her strange situation felt a bit too Mary Sue-ish. I’ve worked in a library and I can definitely say that we are not trained to handle waking up on alien space stations! I felt that Ellie should have taken a bit longer to adapt to and accept her new status -months would have been preferable to the couple of days she has between waking up and finding herself in the middle of a space battle between aliens. I accepted this as necessary to the plot, but it is a tad unbelievable. Nevertheless, I liked Ellie’s kind heart, open mind, and her ability to adapt quickly and competently to the weirdness around her. I also really appreciated how her acceptance of Paxe leads her to treat all the machines around her with kindness and dignity, something that comes in very handy as the story progresses.
I couldn’t help but wonder if Renn would have been the guy Ellie would pick for herself in different circumstances, and think he probably isn’t. He does, however, fit perfectly into Ellie’s current reality. He’s a warrior and protector – a strong, resourceful, determined hero who does his best to place himself between Ellie and danger. She admires Renn’s good looks, loyalty to his crew and his can-do attitude. She appreciates how he repeatedly steps up to help her, even when that means risking himself and his people. And lest you think Ellie is a helpless damsel in distress, she’s not. Their situation is extremely dangerous and they simply have to fight their way out of trouble a lot, so there are plenty of opportunities for both of them to play hero. They make a very effective team, but perhaps not a very romantic one, which is perhaps down to a combination the characterization, the length of the book and how much ground the novel has to cover. As with the other Class 5 stories, the human (in this case Ellie) makes a significant friend of the AI she encounters, and as I mentioned above, the other machines around her. Having to split her relationship building between the sentient technology and Renn means the romance suffers from lack of quality time. The story did leave me with hope for their romantic future however, and perhaps that’s the best way to leave a couple who’ve only known each other a matter of weeks.
Like other novels in the series, this one includes an exploration of alien artifacts discovered by the Tecran on their illegal explorations through space. In this particular case, the station houses an entire warehouse of fun new toys as well as a space ship different from those used by the United Council. It’s fun to watch Ellie and the Grih learn to manuver their way through these items and discover some big surprises.
The one big negative for me was that the epilogue has to be acquired through Bookfunnel, even though it very much serves as a continuation of, rather than something separate from, this story. I think the tale is much stronger with those added five or six chapters and they should have just been part of the book rather than forcing fans to go through additional steps to read them. Those pages include Ellie getting to meet the other Earth women, their significant others and the other four Class 5 thinking systems.
Dark Class is not the strongest book in the Class 5 series but it is an enjoyable, quick read that I’m delighted to be able to recommend. There is so much left to explore in this universe; I hope the author keeps writing in it and gives us lots more stories to enjoy.
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I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.