I will make this clear. I am not much into Science Fiction. I am a Fantasy guy. Tolkien, Feist, Weis, Martin… I like my dragons, magic, armours and all sort of fantasy things. I haven’t read a Science Fiction novel since I read “The Weavers of Hairs” (or however it was published in English… I read it in Spanish) and, quite frankly, I was as impressed with the concept as I was disappointed with the execution. Not inspiring.
This might sound rich from some one who’s already set aside money to get the first replica of the Normandy I can find on the Internet and wish I had been born in a family called “Shepperd”, but it is the truth.
When Sarah told me about her novel and asked me if I wanted to read a pre-release draft, I rapidly agreed, not because I was that interested in the setting, but because I trust her abilities to write, pure and simple. She told me about this novel based on the RPG Universe of Mindjammer, which she created and that is published by Cubicle 7, so it also stood to reason that she’d know a thing or two about the whole subject.
Eventually I managed to get to the book and started to read it.
It took considerable effort to put it down every night.
Mindjammer is Sci-Fi like you’re not likely to find anywhere else. It is based in a future some 15.000 years ahead of us where planets have been colonised by ships that travel slower than the speed of light. Thus reaching far planets can take hundreds of years. Some of the vessels are still in transit, some have got lost. The ones that have reached their destinations have been unlinked from Earth sometimes for centuries and have evolved their own technologies and societies and, in some instances, become very detached from their own humanity.
Of course all of that changed some 200 years ago when faster than light travel was discovered and spaceships can travel through 2-Space and cover in weeks what until then took years and even decades. Colonies are being rediscovered and adjoined to the Commonality, the benevolent dictatorship originating from Earth dedicated to reunite the lost and long separated colonies and civilisations that have evolved.
You think the Internet is advanced? Well, imagine an Internet that can host the thoughts and memories of everyone. At an intergalactic level. Now imagine that those memories can be implanted onto pretty much anything to create thinking items with personalities. From guns to spaceships and avatars. Including ships in charge of transporting copies of the whole collection of thoughts stored to date, the Mindjammers.
So you get an item that may sound and even look like a full human being, but it certainly is not, and if it forgets it’s just a reflection of a person who was once alive, then we get into trouble.
Enter the Sci-Force. Here to protect, serve and trouble-shoot situations all over the place. And that’s exactly what the stars of the novel have to do. Before they realise, our intrepid space farers are facing an enemy like they’ve never encountered before and that will challenge every single belief they’ve held dear for all their lives. And is a tough as old boots too!
So, without going any more into the plot of the novel, is this good? No. It’s not just good. It’s some of the best.
Yes, you could argue that Sci-Fi is not my strong point and you’d be right. So why am I so confident? Because Sarah has managed to create an universe that makes sense while being so far removed from us that it’s barely recognisable, and yet is familiar. Let me explain.
If you look at the “standard” Sci-Fi literature or movies, they’re pretty much us, our society, with advanced technology, but with our morals, our ethics and our dilemmas. Very little else.
Mindjammer is very, very far from that. The ethics are totally different, the morals removed from ours, and yet totally believable. The technology is almost magic-feeling, and so it should be. And yet there is enough of us, of our current selves, that it is easy to relate and empathise with societies, governments, politics and characters.
Don’t get me wrong, not everything is perfect in this book. Sometimes the amount of information is such that it becomes overwhelming and it’s only when you’ve read a few more pages that things fall into place and the situation makes sense.
And that is the word to keep in mind. Situation.
This novel is not about the characters that feature in the plot. This novel is about a situation that has to be dealt with. At the same time, the book also has to introduce you to a new universe, a new way of thinking and a new type of heroes. And villains. Again all of it far enough from us to feel new and futuristic, and close enough to feel familiar.
It took me just over a week to read the over 400 pages of this book. I am dyslexic. Reading that amount in that time only means the book is very, very accessible and well written. Newton hasn’t held back in her use of the vernacular, though. Her vocabulary is spot on and hardly ever uses a word that is not in the right place. Be ready to consult a dictionary sometimes too.
to summarise, I will say that this book has got me into Sci-Fi. At least it’s got me into Mindjammer. I very much look forward to the second edition of the game and to many more novels to come.
If Mass Effect was the video game that made me fall in love with Sci-Fi in videogames, this is the book that has made me fall in love with Sci-Fi in RPGs and Fantasy now has a big contender.
Well deserved 5 stars for Sarah Newton and Mindjammer.
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