Lost Solace

Sometimes spaceships disappear with everyone on board – the Lost Ships. But sometimes they come back, strangely altered, derelict, and rumoured to be full of horrors.

Opal is on a mission. She’s been seeking something her whole life. Something she is willing to die for. And she thinks it might be on a Lost Ship.

Opal has stolen Clarissa, an experimental AI-controlled spaceship, from the military. Together they have tracked down a Lost Ship, in a lonely nebula far from colonised space.

The Lost Ship is falling into the gravity well of a neutron star, and will soon be truly lost … forever. Legends say the ships harbour death, but there’s no time for indecision.

Opal gears up to board it. She’s just one woman, entering an alien and lethal environment. But perhaps with the aid of Clarissa’s intelligence – and an armoured spacesuit – Opal may stand a chance.

Book Length: 273 pages / 58,400 words
ISBNs: Paperback 978-1-911278-11-5 / E-book 978-1-911278-12-2

5* "Excellent space opera, great feel and a thrilling read. The whole story takes place in a very short space and yet so much is conveyed about the main character and the universe that she inhabits. There’s a very real feel to it, and at the same time a weirdness from the setting. But weird in a good way.
Slowly the backstory is leaked out to us like air from a damaged spacesuit.
Every obstacle and challenge builds the suspense. It also explores both the strange hulk and Opal’s life story. We find out how she developed the skills that keep her alive and why she’s here looking for lost ships. None of it seems contrived, there are no info dumps. It’s just really well written and immaculately edited story."

-- Themself

5* "Science fiction modern masterpiece. WOW! I read and listen to a lot of books. Science fiction is one of my favorite genres. This story and narration knocked it out of the park. The lost ship concept has been done before but the take on it was novel and the AI of the ship and its pilots interactions with it is what truly makes this story great. Some very novel ways of handling the story, great action scenes, constant pace and just enough backstory to keep it interesting. Can’t recommend this story enough!"
-- Mary Karowski, Audible (audiobook version)

"Drinkwater layers Lost Solace with a number of mysteries, first and foremost being the secrets behind the derelict cruise liner, both its disappearance and its transformation. But there’s also the question of why Opal stole the specific ship she did, why the military is so desperate to get it back, and why she has reprogrammed the ship’s AI to model a woman named Clarissa.
Surrounding all these mysteries is plenty of action. Every step of Opal’s journey is complicated further and further by outside forces, and it’s always interesting to see what the author has up his sleeve to force his protagonist into a position of struggle. Drinkwater excels at making Opal struggle, wrinkling every one of her plans with unexpected dangers and opposition.
Thankfully, Opal is up to these challenges. She’s an intelligent and resourceful heroine, one who relies on her brains just as much as, if not more-so than, her brawn. She’s smart and bold, and Drinkwater constantly keeps you guessing how she’s going to get out of whatever particular corner she’s been boxed into. Clarissa is an excellent counterpart, both friend and ally, to Opal, and their relationship develops a richness the more it deepens, borne initially out of a fight for survival, but also a mutual admiration and respect. As an artificial intelligence, Clarissa is clearly smarter than Opal thanks to raw processing power, but both find ways to complement each other in both skills and brains.
Complementing the material nicely is Marisha Tapera, who reads Lost Solace with solid efficiency. She has a good vocal range, giving Opal, Clarissa, Clarissa’s unhacked default AI mode, and the various tertiary characters that weave in and out of the story their own distinct voices and characteristics. There’s no mistaking one character for another. Her Opal has a confident authority befitting her skills and military tenure, whereas her Clarissa is very young, almost childish in tone, which helps to emphasize the relationship between these two figures marvelously.
Lost Solace is an intelligent work of science fiction, one that is quite literally built around the brain of its smart, highly adept female (or female-identifying in the case of the AI) protagonists. It’s packed with plenty of action, to be sure, but it’s much, much smarter than your typical run-and-gun sci-fi romp.."

-- High Fever Books (audiobook version)

5* "This thrilling and claustrophobic novel is unusual in that, essentially, there are only two characters, Opal herself and the modified AI of her stolen ship, who she has named Clarissa. Any other appearances a very few and brief. The story is told through the conversations between these two main protagonists, their evolving relationship and the battles to survive. Marisha Tapera narrates, her lovely voice building tensions and excitement as well as character building as she very closely follows the nuances of the text in pacing, intonation and tonal variation. A superb performance.
It is one of those very occasional books to which I wish I could award an additional star of excellence beyond the normal five star rating. The story was intense and involving, a perfect melding of book and narrator, and though complete in itself, left me wanting more. Excellent, and recommended to anyone with a S.F. leaning."

-- Norma, Goodreads (audiobook version)

5* "LOST SOLACE stars two delightfully strong female protagonists. One is human (Opal); one is AI (Clarissa). Clarissa herself is part of a ship Opal has acquired. The dialogues and interaction between these two is priceless: sometimes snarky, sometimes comforting, all times entertaining."
-- Into The Abyss

5* "Karl Drinkwater gets the reader lost in a world set in deep space. At first, I expected the normal trajectory action SF novels tend to have, but this novel rose above my expectations because it sucked me into the story world and let me live there for a little while.
Opal is a strong female protagonist whose mind is set in completing her mission. Drinkwater made a perfect decision in making the coprotagonist a snarky AI. The story holds because of the relationship between human and machine.
I devoured this novel."

-- Chris DiRusso, Goodreads

5* "I love Sci-fi and Horror having grown up with movies such as Alien and Critters. Would happily recommend to anyone familiar with Space Opera who also enjoys Stephen King.
[...] [Liked] the inclusion of an AI which reminded me of a benevolent HAL at times. Karl Drinkwater has no issue creating suspense on the lost ship and was able to evoke a feeling of loneliness and emptiness while at the same time raising the hairs on the back of my neck as if the main character was being watched. Lost Solace is a book unlike any other I've read to date. Karl has applied his obvious experience in writing horror and brought it to Sci-Fi without it seeming out of place or derivative.

-- A. Rowan, Amazon

"Best Kick-ass Heroine Award: Lost Solace by Karl Drinkwater"
"I loved the fact we have two (I’m counting Clarissa, the AI in this) strong female leads who make split second decisions from very limited options, showing true grit and resilience. Who are not adverse to breaking the rules to get what’s needed and pushing through to the end and yet are loyal and steadfast. An appearance from a senior member of the military only serves to highlight issues of freedom and morality. Do you follow what you know to be true or do you bend your knee to the hierarchy? It’s not until later on that we find out for sure what drives Opal’s behaviour. For once it didn’t matter to me. She had my vote from the beginning. All readers will be able to able to identify with the psychology that underpins the story as well as feel a connection to Opal.
-- Jera's Jamboree - Best Fiction Books 2018

5* "It's just that type of book that grabs your interest and takes you for a long ride. [...] Lost Solace may have been the best book I have read this year. Seeing that this is the 60th review I have provided to date, I can't stress this enough. Lost Solace is an amazing book. [...] It just entraps you, once you have started reading the book. [...] It is one book you don't want to miss.
-- Robert Jones, Goodreads

5* "AMAZING!! There were so many things to enjoy about this book, like creepy moments on the lost ship, military chase scenes, an AI developing a personality. I <3 this read!"
-- Katya, Goodreads

"A fantastic sci-fi horror piece which I blazed through. With an incredibly strong and memorable female protagonist and a fascinating plot with a mystery at its center, it’s a perfect example of why science fiction and horror go together so well."
-- 31 Days of Horror, The Behrg

5* "This! Was! Amazing!
[..] The whole book lived up to the blurb; it was exciting and pulse pounding all the way through, even though the majority of it was Opal alone, with only her AI to keep her company.
The prose is tight, well crafted, and has some lovely stream of consciousness interjections, which are very, very hard to insert into this style of book. [...]
Super pleased with this book, and will be buying the sequel as soon as it comes out.
Also really loved the subtle allusions to race and society, Opal being dark skinned. Her description is left up to your imagination for the most part, which is something I love in books (no more telling us what protag looks like in mirror, please!) apart from her skin. Yes! More WoC in sci-fi, please!
[...] I'm a major sucker for female characters, strong female characters and STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS IN SPACE! and the author delivers.
Wonderful, also, a female perspective that I completely buy into written by a man, which is a brilliant achievement. Not one description of her boobily breasting anywhere!
Will read more by this author! Buy this!"

-- NetGalley reviewer (and Goodreads)

5* "I finished it in one read and put the book down with the same excitement that my first read of Ender's Game gave me."
-- NetGalley reviewer

"This was epic SciFi at its best with some really creepy shit underlying the surface. Take Alien and make a horror menagerie out of it and you will get the sense of a place you never want to be. Thankfully the story does not reside solely in the SciFi horror genre but embraces grand world building and believable technology. A fun read. Get it!"
-- Koeur's Book Reviews

"Things I liked:
  • A pretty gutsy and resourceful female protagonist 
  • The action!!!! I loved the action in this one. 
  • The concept of the ghost ship and what the main character actually encounters 
  • The AI Clarissa, she sometimes stole the show to be perfectly honest. 
  • The plot is also good, it gives to us inch by inch of why Opal is there. 
  • The sheer bravery/stubbornness of Opal when confronted with forces much bigger and stronger than her."
"A really action packed book and with such a strong main character and her incredible AI. Seriously, I wasn’t expecting to love this book as much as I did. It snuck up on me and I literally couldn’t put it down because I had to know what was happening. It’s fast paced and full of weird things that I loved reading about." -- Bookwormmuse mini review and monthly wrap-up 

"I often say that if you give me a motivated protagonist in a dynamic situation, as long as you don't make any serious craft blunders you'll hook my attention for the duration. Extra points if the protagonist is a competent, capable woman.
Well, this book ticks all those boxes with a big thick pen.
It's a thrill ride of a space opera"

-- The Review Curmudgeon

5* "Excellent story from beginning to end! Suspense, mystery and adventure brilliantly woven throughout which made this book a real page turner!"
-- Deanna, Goodreads

"The atmosphere of this story is fabulous. I really felt the oppression of this abandoned vessel: each new room that Opal explores seems to have its own strange secrets and as we learn more about the ship, the tension ramps up. I had a sense of the dread that I’d experienced in films like Alien, Solaris and Event Horizon; the kind of dread that makes you go cold but the shiver down the spine feels delicious.
Later, Opal finds herself pitted against a well-trained squad of marines who’ve been sent to apprehend her. Her resourcefulness in dealing with the threat is both measured and extreme and while I found myself rooting for her, I was also agog at her badass no-nonsense approach. You wouldn’t want to upset Opal, not even a little.
The heart of this novel is the relationship between Opal and the AI, Clarissa. Clarissa is more than just a glorified butler, she actively works to keep Opal alive. Without her help, Opal might not survive and it’s great to see how the author builds their mutual respect. By the end of the novel I was actually quite moved by the outcome, something that took me by surprise but which I loved.
Lost Solace is one of those stories that grabs you by the collar, plonks you in the driving seat and takes you on an amazing adventure so completely that you simply can’t put it down until it’s done. Top quality sci-fi [...] I highly recommend it and look forward to the sequel."

-- Matt Hill Writes

5* "The action in Lost Solace is non-stop, with a variety of threats to the strong, but human, female protagonist, Opal. [...] Definitely give this book a shot if you're into sci-fi, action, horror, or strong, believable, women characters."
-- Amazon Customer, Amazon

5* "I love how, with the help of a writer’s words, our imagination can take us anywhere at all. For a couple of days I’ve been in deep space, confronting all sorts of challenges that have taken me to the edge of life and back, all done with the assistance of a 6th gen AI who is closer to me than anyone else in my life.
Magic? Oh yes.
I loved the fact we have two (I’m counting Clarissa, the AI in this) strong female leads who make split second decisions from very limited options, showing true grit and resilience. Who are not adverse to breaking the rules to get what’s needed and pushing through to the end and yet are loyal and steadfast. [...] It’s not until later on that we find out for sure what drives Opal’s behaviour. For once it didn’t matter to me. She had my vote from the beginning. All readers will be able to able to identify with the psychology that underpins the story as well as feel a connection to Opal. [...]
The challenges and action keep moving at a fabulous pace. And what a setting! Within the space ship, so many nooks and rooms as well as open walkways for anything to happen. I was quite happy to be ‘blind’, with no expectations of what might come next, to let Karl Drinkwater lead me on through this alien territory. I knew whatever was coming would up my adrenalin and get me sitting on the edge of my seat. Plenty of those moments throughout Lost Solace. [...]
This has been a fast paced read for me and a story I have no hesitation in recommending."

-- Jera's Jamboree

5* "I liked the setup of a woman commandeering an advanced A I ship that allows its development into a person. Together they go on a fast paced adventure into a very creepy unknown. The bond of ship and human is tremendous and ended well in this age of sequels."
-- J M Strasser, Amazon

5* "Lost Solace is a brilliant read. Superbly-written, gripping, action-packed, with an absolutely kick-ass heroine to boot. Essentially, Opal is a futuristic 'treasure hunter' aided by a loyal and wry AI called Clarissa as they try to salvage something from a Lost Ship. The danger just keeps mounting as Opal faces aliens and Marines sent to apprehend her. What I particularly loved was how well we come to know Opal through her actions, not her thoughts, and for me, this is a sign of a writer who has really got to know their main character. Sci-fi fans will enjoy this a lot, but I'm not one of those and I loved it, too. It's as much about Opal's internal journey as much as anything that happens out in space. I dare say this would make a great film."
-- Amy Kitcher, Goodreads

5* "Catwoman and HAL9000 battle in the stars!
Prickly heroine, spunky AI, and the evil military industrial complex race to exploit a derelict starship in uncharted space. What could possibly go wrong? A fun read with heroic female characters and a variety of villains. I truly enjoyed this book and look forward to its sequel."

-- Jim Garrison, Goodreads

5* "Lost Solace is a clever space horror with a feisty ball-buster female lead! [...]
The atmosphere on the ship is claustrophobic, it is ‘alive’, although abandoned and strange horrors wait around every corner –  enter alien robots and mysterious substances. I’m slow to divulge any more but there are lots of weird, tense and eerie scenes on the ship.
Opal is a mysterious and sometimes angry character, but there are small glimpses of her softer, human side. She is a force to be reckoned with and I would hate to have her as an enemy!
The descriptions of space, the ships and the gadgets were excellent, allowing me to easily imagine the scenes. The cleverly created action sequences kept the pace of the story moving. As with Karl’s other books, the writing is excellent and to the point.
This is a thrilling space horror with an unconventional female friendship at the core. I think this would appeal to fans of adventure, Sci-Fi and horror.  I can’t wait to see what happens in the next installment."

-- Banshee Irish Horror Blog

5* "I loved this book. [...] This book has it all. Yes, it is obviously a science fiction read, but it's also the story about a strong young woman who will fight for what she believes in. Opal is a strong character,  both in nature and on the page. [...] It is also very obvious that this author writes horror and loves the genre, and this seeps through this book in the most delicious way. This is one eerie read, especially when we get to the Lost Ship part of the book. Some scenes completely freaked me out and chilled me to the bone. Heightened because of my sheer belief and connection with Opal.
I also have to mention Clarissa, who although a robot, gave a fresh and unique twist to what it means to have a nourishing female friendship. As I progressed through the novel I began to forget that Clarissa was a robot and, to me, she became a person in her own right. [...]
Lost Solace really is a wonderful read. It's fast, scary, dark at times, and features a young woman whom I grew to admire and root for in her quest. I really do hope that there is a sequel to this book."

-- Brew and Books Review

5* "I was bowled over by this book. [...] Lost Solace has an action-packed story line that doesn’t let you pause for breath, a flawed, female protagonist who you can’t help liking, and a ship AI that seems almost human. For most of the book, these two are the only characters as the story plays out in real time, but their interactions and dialogue are so cleverly written that you don’t even notice.
Even though we don’t know anything about Opal at the beginning, her strong character, sense of humour, and moral judgement shine through immediately. [...] The tension throughout the book is unrelenting, and keeps you turning the pages. I have read several of Karl’s horror stories, and he is definitely the master of keeping you on the edge of  your seat! [...] Well written and well edited, with a beautiful cover as well, I highly recommend this book."

-- Pink Quill Books

5* "Drinkwater’s latest is a great reminder of what makes sci-fi so appealing. Take a strong yet flawed protagonist who needs to accomplish something and then set obstacles in her way. It’s not rocket science but man does it make for a compelling story.
The set up here is great, with Opal coming upon a “lost ship” circling the outer rim of a potential black hole, a ship that is far from what it appears to be. It’s obvious Drinkwater is a horror author as the tension and atmosphere really keep this novel moving at full speed. Add a lot of questions and intrigue and a dynamic relationship between our protagonist and the ship’s AI and you’ve really got a unique story that’s just exceptionally executed.
Part “Alien,” part “Cast Away,” part “Interstellar,” this exceeded my expectations and came in as one of my top Sci-Fi reads for 2017. Definitely worth checking out."

-- The Behrg

"Space, it turns out, is not the final frontier.
Oh no, you see, there's something else out there. Somewhere that the Lost Ships go to. And when they come back, well... you may not survive the experience.
Karl Drinkwater is a horror man, you can tell as you read this haunted house story in space. Rogue soldier Opal and her pirated AI ship are on the trail of a Lost Ship, which has reappeared in our universe from that mysterious somewhere - and Opal is intent on exploring this vessel for personal reasons. With the aid of her AI, Clarissa, they discover the passenger ship has changed, warped, become something... almost living. There's a Lovecraftian air to this voyage of discovery, with animated robot dolls, flesh growing from the ship, the vessel itself morphing its shape to repel unwanted guests. [...] Drinkwater is a dab hand at creating an air of dread, and every corner of the ship feels like it might have a dark secret lurking in its shadows.
More than that, I really loved his AI creation, Clarissa. Her hacked persona really does raise questions of identity and personality throughout the story - does it matter who an AI is? Isn't it just a computer? Or is it more than that - could it even be a friend? The bond between AI and Opal is tested more than once, and is a fascinating relationship.
[...] A cracking read, certainly evoking the horror worlds of space such as those in Alien, Pandorum or Event Horizon. If those are your kind of horror treat, then the Lost Ships await you."

-- Altered Instinct

5* "Having read some of the author's books before (Turner, Harvest Festival) I know the author is capable of some under the skin eeriness, and Lost Solace doesn't disappoint. Moments of high action punctuate the claustrophobic feel as we follow Opal on a kick ass adventure. It was great to read something with a strong female main character, but as strong as Opal was she still had a softness to her which made her feel very real and not cliched."
-- Sharon Cook, Goodreads

5* "Excellent read. Beautifully written, non-stop, exhausting action that centers around a single character without ever getting stale."
-- KHB, Goodreads

5* "Such a strong hero with incredible resilience. There was non-stop action with detailed interactions. Look out Ripley, cause there be monsters."
-- Barbara Dunbar, Goodreads

"Oooh think Event Horizon with a bit of "Mother" from the Alien movies and that was the overall feel when I first started this book. [...] Opal is a fantastic character, complex, a history we learn a bit more about as we read on, she is heroic, loyal, strong and long long overdue in fiction. I loved the AI too and the relationship that formed between the two, the ballsy choices and bravery through frightening encounters and life and death situations."
-- So many books, so little time

5* "Two words: Super Cool. I don't often read Sci-fi, but as I'm a sucker for Drinkwater's horror pieces, I felt comfortable picking up this book, and, well, the cover pulled me in. Though Opal, the protagonist, has her flaws, she is one compelling character (and she knows how to kick butt). [...] I loved the AI, Clarissa, and the body armor suit she created for Opal was awesome - great imagination on Drinkwater's part. I read this book in about a day. It's fast paced with a touch of horror and just the right amount of description such that I could visual most things but didn't feel slowed down by any of it. My favorite part of the story, which actually made me laugh, was Clarissa asking Opal if she 'should intervene if she sees an opportunity' and Opal's response upon said intervention. Good stuff there. The end of the book sets up a continuation to the story - I'm there in a heartbeat."
-- E.M. McIntyre, Goodreads (and Amazon)

5* "I've only read one other story by Karl, a shorter piece called Harvest Festival, but it was enough to feel comfortable buying this one, and I was not disappointed. It takes great skill writing a full novel with just one character POV throughout and with almost no other character other than a ship's A.I. [...] I never found myself skimming a single passage, and that is a rare occurrence for me as I am easily distracted and will skip through narrative I find even the slightest bit boring or superfluous. None of that here."
-- Brock Deskins, Goodreads

"The majority of new SF novels I've read this year have had female main characters [...] that's certainly the case in Karl Drinkwater's engaging Lost Solace. It's really a two hander between military renegade Opal and her ship's AI, Clarissa. [...] The majority of the action, which is practically non-stop throughout the book, involves Opal trying to survive as she explores a mysterious, apparently abandoned liner in a decaying orbit around a neutron star. The whole book takes place in real time, which adds to the claustrophobic tension of Opal's adventures, mostly while cooped up in an armoured space suit. It's pretty well impossible not to relate to Opal's character. [...] The ship she explores is distinctly weird with some elegantly nasty touches thrown in by Drinkwater - and Clarissa brings in a really interesting AI side to the whole thing. [...] It was a book which I read with enthusiasm, wanting to find out what comes next, involving a good deal of atmosphere, particularly on the liner, plus some satisfying David vs Goliath work. Assuming this is the first of a series, I await the next with interest."
-- Popular Science

"Great fun—a female-centred science fiction space adventure, with lots of action, creepy mystery, and satisfying emotional depth."
-- Julie Cohen, author

"The story is excellent and there is a perfect balance of sci-fi and horror. [...] Lost Solace is absolutely compulsive reading. [...] It's punchy and fast paced. The technology and armoured suit are incredibly thought out and intelligent. The armoured suit is definitely the kind of thing I would want if I was in that kind of situation. I honestly cannot emphasise how much I loved this book. When I finished it my initial notes were as follows - Omgoodness ALL OF THE STARS! 5/5! It's creepy, it's action packed, it's awesome!"
-- Life of a Nerdish Mum


severe said...

Loved the book, one question though. What happened to the last battle with the Orica. Would have loved to read about it but you left it to our imagination. Irv

Karl Drinkwater said...

Hi, glad you liked it! Was it the audiobook version? Basically, the last we see of the Aurikaa is that it accelerates beyond the zone where any human ship can escape the crushing force. There's no way to see it directly without Clarissa also getting crushed, so she maps the predictions on a screen, but Opal turns it off. It's too depressing, seeing the mighty warship collapsing in on itself. So, instead of explosions and drama, we get silence and introspection, which seemed more fitting as I wrote it.

That doesn't mean I won't ever write about Grubane or the ship again. I will be releasing a series of short stories, "Lost Solace Shorts", that each focus on one person from the Lost Solace books, and shows us some key scene from their past. Grubane has been requested by a few people!

The sequel, Chasing Solace, is already available as an e-book and paperback. There may be an audiobook version but quality production takes time, and there is no timeline for it at present.

Feel free to leave a review of Lost Solace on Audible, Goodreads, Amazon, wherever - I really appreciate how word about the book is mostly just spreading by word of mouth and reader recommendation!

Thank you!

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