RogerBW's Blog

Medusa Uploaded, Emily Devenport 23 September 2018

2018 science fiction, first of a planned series. On the generation ship Olympia, life is stratified into the Executives and everyone else. Oichi Angelis is an everyone else, but one with a hidden asset.

But this isn't a story about the workers rising up and throwing off the decadent aristocrats; it's much more interesting than that. There are factions among the Executives, and more factions among the revolutionaries, and some of those factions cross the obvious dividing line. And there seem (somehow?) to be outsiders trying to influence things, too.

But really, much of the point of the book is Medusa, the artificially intelligent space-armour that Oichi, thanks to some illicit implants, is able to bond with. Which is both good and bad for the story: there's a fascinating study of human-machine collaboration here, but it rarely seems as though Oichi is in danger, what with her total control of the enemy's communications network, and the fact that nobody seems to be able to think of a way to kill anyone other than throwing them out of an airlock – and see above re "artificially intelligent space-armour", which can catch and save the victim. Well, there's one incident of attempted poisoning, but it's easily averted.

Tension is further defused by the non-linear narrative; Oichi's voice (which is remarkably full of modern slang for someone who's never had contact with Earth) tends to describe how a series of events came out, well before we learn about why it happened or what the stakes were. There isn't really any diegetic justification for this, and I'd rather have read it in order without the Had-I-But-Known foreshadowing.

On the other hand the good stuff is very good, with a plot made of deceptions layered inside deceptions, unexpected friendships and redemptions, a feel for the ship and its artificially constrained society, and well-observed people who clearly think they're doing the right thing even when they're blatantly grabbing power and doing down their (real or imagined) rivals.

Mind you, when I read of a ship called Olympia and a sister ship called Titania, I can't help wondering whether there was once a Majestia too.

I may well nominate this for a Hugo Award. A sequel, Medusa in the Graveyard, is planned for 2019, but the book stands well on its own.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

See also:
Way Down Dark, J. P. Smythe
Clarkesworld 143, August 2018


  1. Posted by Emily Devenport at 02:37pm on 25 September 2018

    Majestia is a wonderful name for a generation ship. : D

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 02:40pm on 25 September 2018

    Welcome, and thanks for dropping by!

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