02/03/2009. Contributed by Gareth D Jones
pub: Orbit. 486 page enlarged paperback. Price: £10.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-632-0.
check out website: www.orbitbooks.net
I've read several articles and comments in recent years bemoaning the lack of cultural diversity in SF so it was refreshing in this book to find colonists from a diversity of cultural backgrounds as the main characters. They are all portrayed in a natural way that doesn't make them stereotypes or thinly-disguised Americans with foreign names.
The background to the story is that three colony ships fled Earth during an invasion 150 years earlier and found their way to new homes. The story centres on the Scots, Russian and Norwegian colonists on Darien, a world they share with the native Uvovu. It's a nicely described world where the colonists are doing very well for themselves despite various internal struggles but are completely unaware of the vast and varied cultures that surround them.
The plot is sufficiently deep to maintain interest throughout without being horribly convoluted. The chapters rotate between the main characters regularly so that they're never left for too long, with cliff-hangers increasing in frequency as the plot progresses. Michael Cobley comes up with great names for the various alien races and their alliances, names that get more and more complex, using every variation of the word hegemony you can imagine. It's all good fun.
The writing is consistently good, offering a variety of action, intrigue, high-tech gadgets, space-stations and droids as the plot expands from the colloquial viewpoint on Darien to matters of Galaxy-wide proportions. This is space-opera at its most entertaining, a tale that builds to a satisfying climax while leaving plenty to be told in future volumes. I'll certainly be looking out for them.
Gareth D. Jones
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