Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Expendable by James Alan Gardner
Expendable by James Alan Gardner was one of the few books I had not read on a list I found of best Science Fiction Novels. The book is out of print but I found it at my public library. Expendable is the first published novel by James Alan Gardner and introduces the Universe where only sentient races (those who do not kill other races) are allowed in the League of Peoples. Humans in the Technocracy are part of the League and some of the action in Expendable is influenced by League rules.
Humans are still expanding and settling new planets. They have a special group of people to make first contact on any new planet. The Explorer Corp is made up of people who are different. Born less than perfect physically but very sharp mentally they are perfect for the job. If you are popular, well-liked and physically perfect and die on a mission the effect on the crew is devastating, but if you are flawed, not so well-liked and ugly your death has little lasting effect on the crew you serve with. That is how the Explorers Corps came into being. Every member has some physical disability so when they die on a mission (and they often do) there is not a devastating effect on the crews they serve with.
While the official name is Explorer Corps, the Explorers call themselves ECM or Expendable Crew Members and when a mission goes bad they say they go "Oh Shit", as that is usually the last words any one hears.
Festina Ramos is an Explorer and she has just been assigned a mission to Melaquin, the planet of No Return. She is ordered to escort Admiral Chee, a man suffering from mental decline, to explore Melaquin. Melaquin looks like a perfect planet for humans but for forty years it has been used by the Technocracy as a dumping ground for people that they want to disappear and everyone sent there has vanishes without a trace. This should be Festina’s last mission but she has other ideas.
Expendable is a very well written book. Festina Ramos is a wonderful and unique character. The action flows smoothly. The plot is well developed, the Universe is well thought out and the story is exciting. Every character and action woven into the story is there for a purpose. I agree that Expendable belongs on any list of great Science Fiction books.
When I went to James Alan Gardner's web site I found other books that feature Festina Ramos and the League of Peoples Universe.