Fractal Noise is interesting, deep, and thought-provoking sci-fi about the journey to self-discovery.
Disclaimer – Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.
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July 25th, 2234: The crew of the Adamura discovers the Anomaly.
On the seemingly uninhabited planet Talos VII: a circular pit, 50 kilometers wide.
Its curve not of nature, but design.
Now, a small team must land and journey on foot across the surface to learn who built the hole and why.
But they all carry the burdens of lives carved out on disparate colonies in the cruel cold of space.
For some the mission is the dream of the lifetime, for others a risk not worth taking, and for one it is a desperate attempt to find meaning in an uncaring universe.
Each step they take toward the mysterious abyss is more punishing than the last.
And the ghosts of their past follow.
Review of Fractal Noise
Fractal Noise is interesting prequel to To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, the first book in the ‘Fractalverse’ space opera series. This is about Alex Chricton’s journey to find the mystery behind a fifty-kilometer wide circular pit on an uninhibited planet Talos VII that is emitting a fractal pattern through soundwaves.
He and his team have to know more about the Hole and the species that made such a perfect artificial Hole which is proof of alien intelligence and if these sentient aliens are a threat to humans or not. It’s the discovery of a lifetime but can he survive the harsh desolate land with teammates who don’t like each other along with the soul-shattering grief that is his constant companion?
Fractal Noise is my first book by the author and I could see why his previous books, the Inheritance Cycle, have been so popular. Writing is gripping, tense, and thought-provoking with a slow to steady pace. The story is written in the third person narrative from Alex’s POV. I agree with what one of the reviewers said, it feels like literary fiction branched into sci-fi. I liked the format of the book which is chapters within main chapters that are – discovery, landing, and different zones that are the plains surrounding the Hole they are going to travel to reach the Hole.
Fractal Noise is mainly exploratory. It focuses on ‘the journey’ like The Hobbit or LoTR and philosophical aspects about human’s place in the universe, with the theme of loss and grief, self-discovery, and Human VS Environment.
At the beginning of the book we meet the crew on Adamura (research vessel) but it narrows down to four characters who actually go on travel from the lander to the Hole- Alex, Talia, Chen, and Pushkin.
(I was surprised to find a character with my name in the book. Well, my namesake hasn’t been the nicest and didn’t have more role but it felt good to see my name in the book.😄)
Alex, the main character, is an Xenobiologist who at first didn’t like the idea of landing on Talos VII and researching the Hole, in fact, he was against it and almost didn’t sign up for the landing team. He didn’t care about the work and was on the expedition to run away from the past, the death of his wife, Layla. He was aloof, too buried in grief, and trying hard not to drown further in his grief. Most of the crew didn’t like him because of his lack of interest but the discovery of the Hole is something Layla would have liked, would have pursued if she was alive. So to honor her, he signs up to be on the exploration team.
As the travel started we know more about his ‘before’ life (in no particular order) how he met Layla, their married life, how she died, and why he felt guilt and regret. His memories, nightmares, and what-ifs are poignant and touching. It also helped us know more about him- Where he was from, his relationship with his parents, his life in Eidolon where he studied Xenobiology and met Layla, his nature, his view on religion, his wish to explore the world or settle somewhere other than Eidolon that has been the reason of his unhappy married life.
He isn’t the perfect character. In the second half, through Layla’s memory, we see how his ignorance and selfishness has been the reason for his unhappy marriage. It was interesting to see how seeing his words and actions through Layla’s eyes made him realize his mistakes. The despair of losing the chance and the helplessness of not able to make it right is heart-shattering. Even though his present is driven by guilt and regrets, he hasn’t lost his conscience and his sense of responsibility. He was truly amazing in his problem-solving ability and I loved how he could overcome his grief and found hope to move forward. It was truly his journey to self-discovery.
As for the other characters on the exploring team- Chen, Pushkin, Talia. We just know them on the surface level. We know their nature and a little about their past life but their actions and what they were planning or what was their purpose wasn’t explained very clearly. I still don’t know what they were talking about with Chen and what Chen actually thought about other characters.
Usually close quarters, suffering in the same environment, and life-threatening situations bring people together or make them appreciate each other but here it just adds lots of tension to the plot. The different personalities of Talia and Pushkin clashed a lot throughout the book and it made their slow tiring travel even more tiring. I just couldn’t get what they had against each other.
Their different views about the universe and their philosophical religious arguments were rather interesting and also depressing as after so many years religion is still causing the same differences and same arguments as it does today. Humans have explored the universe but haven’t evolved yet when it comes to religion! Like Alex, I found myself agreeing with both Talia and Pushkin’s views. They weren’t wrong from their perspectives but they failed to get it’s okay to have different views and it shouldn’t affect their current travel, like Chen felt.
I loved how the author explored human nature, search for something more, humans’ fear of finding something superior that could harm their existence but in reality it’s humans who harm the environment. The representation of depression is realistic and so well-written. It was interesting to read about the mental and physical toll of their travel, how they were struggling not just with their differences but also with the desolate planet and its soul-tiring condition.
The setting is atmospheric and mindblowing. It is my most favorite part of the book. I enjoyed knowing more about Talos VII, all the data they collected, what it says about the planet, and the mysteries of Hole. Along with it we also get to know a little about the characters’ home planets. But The Hole is the most interesting. The powerful pulse (Thuds) it emits every 10.9 seconds, how it affects their comms, and how every Thud affects characters physically and emotionally. It was also amazing how the author included “Thud” in writing making it part of not just the plot but sentences.
The last two chapters are fast, thrilling, and action-packed. I have to say Talia and Pushkin are idiots. Pushkin might be acting because of exposure but Talia was definitely crazy. I still don’t get what she was doing with Chen and why. What Alex found at Hole was amazing. I don’t think it really tells much about how they made the Hole or all the mystery around it but that moment and Alex’s self-discovery is what I loved. I loved how this hopeless journey ended up giving hope to Alex.
Why 4 stars –
Like I said, we know secondary characters on the surface level and I don’t get their actions. The journey is sure slow and tiring. I erred by reading the book at night because it frequently made me sleepy. But on a positive note, as soon as I thought I’m actually getting tired of their day to part of the journey, something interesting happened that piqued my interest.
Overall, Fractal Noise is interesting, deep, and thought-provoking sci-fi about the journey to self-discovery.
I wouldn’t re-read this book but I sure would love to read the next books in this series.
I recommend this if you like,
Journey focused story
Slow to Steady pace
Theme of Self-Discovery and f=grief
Human Vs Environment
Philosophical religious discussion
Representation of depression
Thank you for reading! Let’s chat..,
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