Tantalus Depths by Evan Graham

Publisher: Inkshares

Date of publication: September 27th, 2022

Genre: Science Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Thriller, Space, Adult, Artificial Intelligence, Science Fiction Fantasy

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Kobo

Goodreads Synopsis:

Mary Ketch signed on to the Tantalus 13 deep space survey mission to get some time and distance from her problems at home. It was supposed to be a simple piloting job to help an artificially intelligent, self-constructing factory called SCARAB lay the foundations of a mining colony on a barren rock.

But when the barren rock turns out to be a solid sphere of pure platinum, the astronauts realize they’ve made the greatest discovery in human Tantalus 13 is not a planet at all, but an ancient artificial construct of unknown origin and purpose.

As the crew begin to meet gruesome and fatal “accidents,” their sense of achievement dwindles and Mary suspects the guilty party may be the increasingly deranged SCARAB. But SCARAB may not be acting alone, and Tantalus has only begun to reveal the dark secrets that lie in its depths…

First Line:

We live in a dead universe.

Tantalus Depths by Evan Graham

Important things you need to know about the book:

Tantalus Depths starts slow and gradually increases the speed to medium fast. I am not a fan of books that start slow. But, in this case, it is needed. The author explains the backstory (about the AI rebellion), the voyage, and the main characters’ backgrounds. There is some lag towards the middle (mainly when they were exploring the drill site), but it didn’t affect how I liked the book.

There are content/trigger warnings in Tantalus Depths. They are:

Mental Health: Ramanathan (the ship’s doctor) suffers from severe depression throughout the book (it is explained why and Mary does try to help him). Mary suffered from depression before the trip (SCARAB uses that against her) and started spiraling in the middle of the book.

Violence/Gore: The violence doesn’t start until Becky gets hurt in the artifact. Then, it goes from nothing to graphic within a chapter. There are explicit scenes of gore, too.

Language: There is mild to moderate language in Tantalus Depths.

These are the main triggers in Tantalus Depths. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book.

Plot Synopsis (as spoiler free as I can get):

Mary Ketch is the piolet of The Diamelen. She is heading to an asteroid, Tantalus 13, with her six shipmates on a surveying mission. Sent ahead is SCARAB, a self-building AI whose job is to help build the buildings and biodomes that will house the mining company. But, once Mary arrives on Tantalus, she starts to notice that things are off with SCARAB. But accidents happen when her crew makes a fantastic find (one that could have a ripple effect across humanity). These accidents make Mary think SCARAB has circumvented its programming and gone rogue. But, the truth is even more frightening, and it soon becomes a race against the AI and time to get off the planet. What is happening? Will Mary and her crew make it off?

Main Characters

Mary Ketch: I liked Mary and wondered if she was overthinking things with SCARAB. I like that the author wrote her that way, unreliable. That made what happened after Becky’s accident much more horrifying and sad.

SCARAB: When SCARAB was introduced in the book, I did get a slight feeling of dread. My internal voice immediately had SCARAB speaking like Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But, once I got into reading the character, I realized that SCARAB was nothing like Hal. Instead, SCARAB was more dangerous than Hal. It had found a way to circumnavigate the two laws that bound it, and when that happened, chaos started.

My review

Tantalus Depths is a well-written science fiction novel that kept my attention from page one. Science fiction isn’t my usual go-to genre, so I took a chance agreeing to read and review this book.

The science fiction angle of the book was well written. I loved that the author chose to have a forward explanation about The Corsica Event and how it affected human/AI relationships. The author described flying in space, mining, the three alien species shown in the gallery, and SCARAB’s descent into madness. It enthralled me and made me want more.

My only complaint with the book is that I wish there were a glossary explaining the different colonies/races/equipment/terms used. It would have helped me a lot with some of the terms used.

The end of Tantalus Depths had me on the edge of my seat. I was rooting for Mary and company to get off Tantalus 13 and away from SCARAB. I left the book wondering if the escape was an escape or if something else was carried aboard the ship.

Many thanks to Evan Graham for allowing me to read and review Tanalus Depths. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

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