REVIEW SUMMARY: Fun, fast-paced and intricately plotted space opera with only minor drawbacks
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A young woman makes a starling discovery that empowers her to save the slowly dying “halo” worlds.
PROS: Fast-paced; cool technology; intricate plot; imaginative world building
CONS: Not as engrossing as it could have been; some slow spots
BOTTOM LINE: A mostly fast-paced, inventive space opera adventure.
In Karl Schroeder‘s Permanence, spacefaring human civilization is essentially divided into two camps: The “lit” worlds orbiting around standard stars and the “halo” worlds (space stations) orbiting brown-dwarf stars. The lit worlds – supporting the Rights Economy and the religious beliefs of Permanence (meant to ensure the permanent existence of humanity) – have it all: faster-than-light starships routinely replenish their supplies. Life for the folks in the halo worlds, however, is rapidly declining as the periodic visits of Cycler ships occur with ever-decreasing frequency. The halo worlds (a.k.a. the Cycler Compact) are forced to become more dependent and are slowly losing hope in a quiet ignorance. At the halo comet-mining habitat of Allemagne, young Rue Cassels’ future looks even more grim; her brother Gentry is planning on selling her as a slave. In the book’s action-packed opening sequence, she manages to escape the halo worlds and fortunately stumbles upon a derelict alien Cycler that could mean salvation for the halo worlds. That is, if several contentious factions don’t wrestle it from her control while she tries to discover its secrets.
This was a fun story that was very fast paced. The events in the story occur over a year and show how the character of Rue grows to meet the responsibility of starship captain. (In the Rights Economy, her discovery makes her the owner.) Along the way she enlists the aid of several Good Guys, although the quickness to trust those unknowns when everyone is obviously out to “get that ship!” is hardly believable. I did enjoy the character of Michael Bequith, a rebel-turned-monk who is losing his faith and questioning life’s purpose. His introductory chapter with his mentor, Professor Heart, was filled with sense-of-wonder. Throughout the book, the cool technology, which includes lots of spaceships, and the environments encountered, of which there are many, are imaginative and sure to please. The meaty plot is well thought out but a smidgeon too political/religious for my personal tastes, but it could have been worse. It was mostly engrossing, though. The action sequences are first-rate and well-paced.