Review of Sean Williams, Astropolis, Book 1:Saturn Rising
I've been impressed by Sean Williams since I read his fantasy book The stone mage and the sea. I loved it because it had that atmospheric feel of South Australia, a narrow liveable strip of land edged between the cold wet southern ocean and the hot dry desert of central Australia.
Astropolis though is SciFi. It's the first book in a trilogy and I haven't read the others yet, though I expect I will. I didn't really like this book much but it is very, very readable. I couldn't put it down.
It is more or less hard SciFi, possibly space opera, although nothing really like the golden age space opera. Nothing like E.E.Doc Smith for instance, it has a touch of the galactic sweep of Olaf Stapledon. A couple of scientific details about his universe are: Relativity holds and there is no FTL, there don't seem to be aliens, human society has spread through the galaxy with all the time delays between stars. Humans have evolved, people can adjust their own rate of body time, they seem to be able to live indefinitely, they live as singletons, primes or gestalts: primes are single, unique humans like us; singletons are separate humans but with more or fewer clones that occasionally meet and may share memories; and gestalts are a bunch of bodies sharing a single mind. That's all kind of standard in hard SF these days isn't it? Reminds me a bit of the worlds of Peter F. Hamilton or Alistair Reynolds.
Things aren't always consistent or explained in Sean William's books. They hang together but with an underlying feeling of many undercurrents you just down't know about or understand.
The story starts with the main character (and only POV) being resurrected into the body of a woman with much of his memories missing. It slowly becomes clear that he is the leader of a small ragtag band of mercenaries who believe they are helping make the galaxy a better place but often seem to end up fighting other instances of themselves. Gradually, through the book, he finds his colleagues, some of his memories and eventually his gender. The end of the book doesn't really tie up many loose ends. I expect the three books are not really standalone books but volumes of a super-story.