I was wading through my list of ten novels that I proposed to read this year (see Jan/Feb blog) and pulled Ganymede off the pile. Cherie Priest is a local Seattle author whose novel Boneshaker was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula award (2012). She also won the Locus award for Best Science Fiction. (2011) A local author, an interesting cover, a strong recommendation on Amazon…
I was willing to try it, and put it on my list.
Although currently living in the Northwest, I have lived a large part of my life in the South, so when the story started with a New Orleans madam, I was intrigued. Fairly quickly, I realized that this is the sequel to Boneshaker and that is when doubt began to creep in. Steampunk! It’s the hottest genre around here, but I’m old fashioned. Give me a ship, stars and an alien and I’m happy.
Still, I read on… until the zombies showed up. Zombies are not science fiction in my world, and I put the book down. Apologies to Cherie Priest who I can guarantee has sold many more books than I have, but…zombies are another matter, and not science fiction by my definition.
So I picked up In the Company of Others by Julie Czerneda. And barely put it down until I reached the end of the 564 pages in the novel.
Humanity has reached out and not found any intelligent alien lifeforms. So, Earth begins terraforming worlds for millions of eager explorers. One low-level fungal plantlike form has been found, the Quill, an iridescent strand of matter that wraps around a human wrist, bringing a pleasant feeling and comfort, until for some unknown reason it mutates and turns deadly.
And spreads rapidly throughout the worlds.
Any humans landing on terraformed worlds are killed violently and mysteriously. All the new worlds are banned.
Earth closes down in quarantine, leaving eager immigrants and stationers stranded on various space stations. Frantic ships who Earth turns away are forced through desperation to impale themselves onto the outer ring of stations. Most stations are destroyed through riots and diminishing resources. Only a few survive.
Humanity chokes and stagnates.
Dr. Gail Smith, brilliant scientist, hopes to wipe out the Quill. After intensive study, she finds clues that suggest one human, Aaron Pardell, may have survived the Quill and provide the key to understanding and destroying them. Her search leads her to Thromberg Station.
Chapter one starts with a bar scene and resulting riot in Sammie’s Tavern when the “Earther” woman enters looking for Aaron Pardell.
Aaron now lives by himself on Thromberg station, a found child, raised as an “Outsider” in his now dead father’s ship, the Merry Mate II that is welded to the station’s outer ring. Stationer, Immie (immigrant) and Outsider (ships attached to the ring) all jockey back and forth through several riots and uprisings trying to survive the intense crowding and limited resources. Aaron is accepted by a small group from Outward Five even though touching him brings on intense pain for both Aaron and whoever touches him. He is an odd young man with gloved hands and strange sensitivities. His large, muscular best friend, Hugh Malley, protects him as well as he can since they both were orphaned early and rely on each other to survive.
The book bubbles with plots of station politics, of intrigue by the University that funds Gail’s project, with the military who guards her and with her own secret plan to search for the answer that will clear out the Quill and open the stars for humanity. Within all these plots are stories of both stressed and tender relationships that show the lengths that humanity will go for each other as each dreams of a better future. And a story of a fascinating alien lifeform that functions unlike any human alive, and so is very misunderstood and difficult to figure out.
A great read. True science fiction detail and world building with complex human emotion.