Every now and then events conspire to keep you from accomplishing simple tasks, such as reading a book. This one took me exactly a month. Normally, I could finish a book like this in days. But it’s been one of those months. Days have gone by when I haven’t been able to get any reading done, and much of it was due to pesky little stuff that had to be dealt with so it would go away.
It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy the book. I did. Revolutions on generation ships are a staple going back to Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky. It’s a narrow subgenre, but one I enjoy.
The basic set up is this: The Creative Fire is a generation ship that is heading home to the planet Adiamo. The crew has grown into a caste society in which the castes are delineated by color of uniform. Ruby Martin is a grey, one of the workers on the lowest levels of the ship. One of the disenfranchised. She and her friends Onor and Marcelle are about to graduate from school and become adults.
Ruby is in a garden when the sky literally opens and a man falls down from an upper level. The Creative Fire is beginning to show the strain of centuries in space. This particular pod on the ship is breaking apart. The man, Fox, is a blue. Ruby knows they exist, but until now the only other color she’s seen are the Reds, security forces which are junior league gestapo.
Her conversation with Fox makes her want more than a life of drudgery enough to challenge the status quo. Although much of the ship’s history has been deliberately hidden from the greys, Ruby knows she won’t be the first to fight for freedom. She hopes unlike some of her predecessors, she lives to enjoy that freedom.
At first, Ruby’s actions and intentions are peaceful. Ruby has an exceptional voice, one that can move people on large and small scales. She starts out by singing songs that are rather subversive. Unfortunately, those she’s challenging won’t hesitate to use force and violence to preserve their positions. I don’t have to tell you that things escalate.
This book is essentially YA, although I’ve not seen anything marketing it as such. Don’t let that stop you from reading it. It’s a well told tale. The cast of characters is broad, and because I kept getting interrupted there were a few times I had trouble keeping track of them. In addition to Ruby, her friend Onor is also a viewpoint character. He’s an effective foil and provides a different perspective on what happens. Cooper does a good job of crafting the characters as individuals, and most of them have their roles to play in the resistance and revolution.
The promotional material says this book was based on the life of Evita Peron, a woman about whom I know very little other than the basic facts. Because of this, I’m sure there are a number of aspects to the story I missed. Even though I’m unfamiliar with the inspiration for this book, Cooper made the story entertaining and engaging for me.
And there are enough unanswered questions to make me want to read the next book. Such as, if the home planet of Adiamo isn’t Earth (and nothing was stated to make me think it is), then how was that planet settled. The Creative Fire is a generation ship. Was Adiamo settled by generation ships? Or was FTL technology lost at some point? What are things like on Adiamo, and what will the crew of The Creative Fire find when they arrive home?
And isn’t the cover by John Picacio outstanding. Picacio is a fantastic artist, and I think this is one of his best pieces.
I’d like to thank Jill Maxick at Pyr Books for sending me the review copy and offer my apologies for having taken so long to finish it. Unfortunately this delay has thrown me behind on some other Pyr titles I have in the stack. I’ll get them read and reviewed, I promise.