The Edge is the third book in the Anomaly Quartet by James Smythe and while I have tried to write this review without spoilers, it may inadvertently include some for the previous books. You should read them! TW: domestic abuse and suicide
Ali is part of a team monitoring the Anomaly, as it creeps closer to Earth. The station is funded by the twin of one of its victims, a rich old man who maybe shouldn’t be in space. Ali left her young son on Earth, she wants to do her bit to give him a future, but she misses him so much, and his father cannot be trusted. When a crewmate kills himself, Ali starts to doubt the mission.
It’s been a while since we were last in the universe of the Anomaly, and it’s moved a lot closer to Earth. I needn’t have worried that I didn’t remember the specifics of earlier books, at least I knew what the Anomaly was and how that might be affecting Ali’s perspective. As you can expect from James’ books, you can’t take everything at face value, however I felt I knew enough of the world-building to try and piece together the mystery. Even then, there were things I didn’t guess.
Quite early on there are hints that’s Ali was a victim of gaslighting by her ex, so there is this tension that her crewmates might also be gaslighting her, or is she doubting herself, was there really something wrong with her back on Earth? But there are also the effects of the Anomaly to consider, and the final nail in the coffin of doubt is the presence of a Machine on board.
If you have not read The Machine, can I just stop you here and tell you to go read it. It is one of my favourite under-rated books and I wish it got more attention. Anyway I love that it crops up in some of his other books, making them set in the same universe if not related in story. It is a machine designed to treat PTSD that turned out not to be as great a solution as they’d hoped. It can store memories, and take them away, in an attempt to restore a broken mind.
The Edge is mind-bending as always. I do recommend reading the other books first, even though it works as a standalone, you would have a much better grounding in what it does and maybe not feel like what happens is too far-fetched. The groundwork has been laid. Again and again, James makes you wonder what makes you, you.
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