Summarizing a novel is a lot like graphing a line: you plot a few points and trust your readers to fill in the rest. Over the course of Earthshine, however, Chad T. Douglas intertwines so many conflicts and characters that the novel's plot bears more resemblance to a ball of yarn than a line connecting A and B. The novel's core conflict, however, revolves around protagonist Benni's search for meaning and recovery after receiving cybertronic, "transhuman" implants following a zero-gravity freak accident. As Benni's cyborg "upgrades"— not to mention their bizarre, even lethal side effects— alienate her from the human world, she increasingly turns to Mars' thriving android subculture for acceptance and self-discovery. But when an energy crisis back on Earth threatens supply shipments to Martian capital Genesia, Benni and her fellow Genesians must endure anarchy and evacuation at the hands of brutal mechanical soldiers. So when the android-dominated Church of the Filis Solis offers Benni refuge from her tumultuous hometown and her tumultuous cybertronic "upgrades" at the cost of her humanity, Benni's choice is far from easy.
First of all, I'd like to applaud Douglas for the jaw-dropping amount of cultural detail he weaves into Earthshine. Not only does he craft entire religions, political controversies, and class warfare for his fictional world, he also envisions dazzling architectural innovations and insightful new technologies for this brisk-paced, surprisingly immersive sci-fi novel. Thanks to the astounding depth of Douglas' worldbuilding and the surprising relevance of Genesia's political upheaval (can someone say "energy crisis"?), Earthshine somehow bridges the thirty-five million mile, six-hundred year gap between its Genesian protagonists and its readers back on Earth. The novel's characters, however, don't always share the setting's depth of development. Although Earthshine's Martian city flaunts mile-high luxury apartments alongside subterranean slums, the novel's characters seldom enjoy similar complexity. Over the course of the novel. Douglas stuffs more characters and subplots into three hundred pages than a three-hundred page book could ever develop or resolve. That's not to say I didn't commiserate with Benni when her love life misfired or long for transhuman Shirro to finally get out of the hospital; I did, however, wish Douglas had shown the reader some vital scenes instead of glossing over them. If you're the kind of person who can't stay in a relationship for more than two weeks, Earthshine is the book for you: the intricate blend of subplots and character arcs quickens the pace while guaranteeing you won't tire of any one character. Don't read Earthshine expecting characters so deep you need a submarine to understand them, but if you're looking for fun, action, and sci-fi wizardry, Chad Douglas has got you covered.