Sparks in Cosmic Dust by Robert Appleton is a rollicking, adventurous science fiction romance. The emphasis is on the adventure and the science fiction, not so much on the romance. But that was fine by me.
Sparks is the story of five hard-luck characters in search of their tickets to fortune. None of them are interested in fame. In fact, a couple of them have already been there and done that. What they all want is a one-way ticket out of hardscrabble and into the ranks of the mega-rich, as well as a one-way ticket back to civilization from the intergalactic boondocks.
Grace Peters has the map and the ship. The map leads to a planet chock-full of a hard-to-mine but very desirable mineral used to power rocketship engines. Grace is a crusty old woman who has been there, done that and seen and done everything. She also can’t resist commenting about it.
Clay and Lyssa are both on the run. Neither of them knows what the other is on the run from, and neither of them cares. But Clay’s secrets are a lot bigger and more important than Lyssa’s.
Varina and Solomon are also on the run. Solomon is mostly running from his immaturity and insecurity. But Varina, Varina has lots of secrets she needs to keep track of, and hers catch up to her even before Clay’s catch up to him.
But all those secrets, and all that running, mean that everyone is more than happy to take off with Grace to mine very secret and very expensive rocks for three months, just to get away from being chased.
Five people, all alone on an otherwise deserted planet. Relationships forged out of dire necessity start to unravel. So do people.
Escape rating B: This was a good read. Grace is an absolute hoot. She’s everyone’s crazy aunt. Very crazy. Everyone in this story had lots of secrets, and they all got revealed when it had maximum value for the story. It did keep me guessing on a couple of things right up to the end. The story is much more about the adventure, and about the power of greed than it is about anything else. The romance is very much secondary but that suited the story.
For an extremely interesting take read Heather Massey’s comments on Sparks in Cosmic Dust over at The Galaxy Express. She saw the story as an homage to John Huston’s classic western, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. While your mileage may vary on the comparison, her commentary on science fiction romance is always fascinating.