RogerBW's Blog

Endless Blue, Wen Spencer 21 July 2016

2007 science fiction. The starship Fenrir was lost ten years ago to a misjump, but its warp engine has just reappeared in open space… embedded in coral, and accompanied by three dead bodies and a fishing boat. Captain Mikhail Ivanovich Volkov takes the frigate Svoboda to find out where the Fenrir has been.

This book is a great many different things. It's a sensawunda and Big Dumb Object book in the tradition of Ringworld or Orbitsville; but it's also about the Reds, genetically modified soldiers, and how and why they're treated as subhuman; and about a bunch of different aliens; and about how to cope when the love of your life lives in a completely different world both physically and mentally; and about finding God.

Humans are all alone in that place you're from. All they seem to do is examine each other under a microscope to find differences. Why do they feel the need to say "you're not like me?" We don't do that here, because we have the minotaurs and the civ and obiaan. If anything, we cling to each other and say "thank God, you're human too."

That's almost too much. Almost. It's the characters who save it: Mikhail, clone-heir of the tsar of Novaya Rus, who's even more in his father's shadow than most great men's sons; Turk, the Red who, rather than being raised in a dehumanising creche, has grown up as Mikhail's brother, but still carries an inferiority complex about his heritage; and Paige Bailey, captain of a small salvage and merchant ship, who's tied up in family obligations.

Everybody makes mistakes, but they're mistakes that those people would make. The aliens are well-drawn, plausibly inhuman, and in some cases it's unclear whether they're sentient at all.

While the ending is perhaps a little abrupt, the only thing that really doesn't work for me is the military terminology: we have unexplained phrases like

The muzzle of a railgun cannon jutting out of the bow marked the ship as a carrier-class

when a "carrier" is normally the sort of big warship that doesn't have a large gun, and terms like "frigate" and "destroyer" get bandied around in a way that makes them just labels. Proofing is also sloppy: "causal" for "casual", "yakuta" for "yukata".

But in spite of those problems this is an excellent and highly enjoyable book. Although it's a stand-alone novel, I'd like to spend more time seeing this world, and observing these people.

Recommended by vatine.

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