Wen Spencer: Endless Blue

I enjoyed reading Endless Blue, but it requires more than the usual amount of willing suspension-of-belief and tolerance for sloppy editing. The premise is fun: there’s a sort of “Sargasso Sea” of space where ships get marooned when warp jumps go awry, and aliens mingle more freely than in the “normal” universe. Four centuries or so in the future, there are uneasy relations between Novaya Rus — patterned on Imperial Russia, rather than the Soviets — and the United Colonies. That tension is mitigated somewhat by the shooting war between humans and the “nefrim,” a race of thoroughgoing, uncommunicative nasties (I doubt the resemblance to “nephilim” is accidental).

Spencer doesn’t seem concerned with creating a believable consistent future. Hers is the sort of universe where a starship will radio its position to home base if its warp jumps takes it a few light years off course. Other than warp drives, there’s only one major piece of technological innovation on display, genetically augmented humans. Outside the Sargasso, altered humans are at best treated as second-class citizens, at worst as property — the historical antecedents are unambiguous. The approach to genetic engineering serves Spencer’s plot more than the dictates of logic; if you were modifying humans to make them more docile and easily controlled, for instance, you wouldn’t want to also make them hyper-intelligent. Spencer’s alien races are distinctly star Trek-y: they’re either humanoid enough to be played by human actors, or they’re nonhuman enough to be a special effect, usually modeled on one or more terrestrial critters.

The novel badly needs a good edit. There are some terrible sentences. One that took me a while to parse describes how Captain Paige Bailey stalls an alien race called the civ by giving them glass blanks that take a long time to move: “To a civ, with their smaller hands, the blanks would be nearly impossible to carry more than one, thus perfect for her needs.” This awkward construction could be easily fixed: “The civs’ smaller hands would find it nearly impossible to carry more than one of the blanks. They were perfect.” There are also numerous copy editing errors. One line of dialogue reads, “You’ve got to be fucking me,” with “kidding” or “with” missing. A crucial, absent “not” made me stumble over “New Washington was only slightly better, as they might see offspring as freeborn people.”

If you can put these flaws aside, however, Endless Blue is a fast-paced, mildly racy adventure with likable, if thinly drawn, protagonists. It’s the sort of book for which descriptions like “science fantasy” and “yarn” are tailor-made. Spencer manages to wrap up the major plot threads, although the denouement feels a little rushed, but there’s clearly enough room in the “Sargasso of Space” for a sequel. If she writes it, I’ll probably read it.

needs more demons? not really, but does need an editor.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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