Mikey Barnes is immortal. Well, sort of. He’s an Expendable, someone who is expected to perform the most dangerous jobs associated with colonizing a planet. When he dies, his body is put into the corpse hole where it’s broken down to its base components. Then another body is grown, complete with his consciousness.
This is Mickey’s seventh life.
During a mission he falls down a crevasse and into a possible lair of creepers – caterpillar-like entities that live underground – and is deemed unsalvageable. Except he’s rescued and when he gets back to his bunk he discovers Mickey8, the newest instantiation of himself.
The subject matter is what drove me to this novel. What an interesting idea, to have an Expendable on board to eat the local cuisine, breathe the air first, and even clean out radiation-thick areas of the ship. The author explained all of this well enough for me to simply handwave away a lot; like anti-matter engines and humans regularly going on one-way trips to colonize other planets.
I would consider this Sci-Fi Lite, if that’s a thing. There’s just enough science to explain things and the main focus is the lead character attempting to figure out how to live with a copy of himself, all while dealing with creepers, a hostile environment, and a ship crew that mostly see him as an abomination.
This is a fast read, with large font, easy sentences, and a tight plot. Some of the backstory dragged a bit, but was important enough to the overall plot line to keep it interesting. I found this novel to be a good example of how much science to include to keep the reader in the know, when and where to give backstory, and how to keep a lean plot.
Overall, I enjoyed this as a bit of science fiction fluff.
A group of people travel to another planet to live in harmony and peace. They encounter sentience in ways they hadn’t predicted.
The first generation of people live a hard life of eking out an existence on this new planet. One of the members of the second generation finds a settlement left by another species; a village of glass blocks and rainbow bamboo. The first generation people believe the bamboo – who provided delicious fruit – is trying to trap the humans there and argues against living in the settlement. A small battle ensues and many of the humans go to the village to begin a new life that includes less hardship and more time for pursuit of pleasure.
The bamboo is sentient and knows these new humans will provide gifts in terms of fertilizer (poop) and water. This information was garnered from moths that bit the humans and brought the little chunks back to the bamboo to analyze. The bamboo helps the humans by providing enzymes and nutrients that aren’t available otherwise. It also helps them with medical concerns and in return, the humans cultivate seeds of the bamboo and plant them where indicated.
The worldbuilding in the book is fascinating. I was engrossed throughout as the novel switched perspectives from humans to this bamboo. Both wanted to live a comfortable life and both assisted each other, sometimes reluctantly. The animals and plants were fantastic and richly described so that I was immersed in this new planet every step of the way.
The novel is told over seven generations. Each chapter is like a peek into a new generation or character and references events that happened off the page but are still relevant, like the computers failing and deaths from accidents. These references were a bit frustrating – I’d have liked to read about them – but I understood they’d make the book tediously long.
The conflict is gentle, for the most part. It’s the struggle of humans living with each other and dealing with differing opinions on important matters. One huge difference of opinion is tracking down the ones that originally made the settlement – the Glassmakers – and how to interact with them.
I almost didn’t want the book to end. I really enjoyed reading about the new creatures and how the humans dealt with petty squabbles amongst themselves, all on a colourful backdrop of a rainbow bamboo and glass village. I’d actually like to see this book made into a TV series.