Mindjammer By Sarah J Newton Reviewed By ISF

~ 900 words

MindJammerAbout the Author:

Sarah is a writer of science-fiction and fantasy roleplaying games. She is the author of the ENnie Award-winning RPG setting of Mindjammer, the techno-fantasy RPG setting The Chronicles of Future Earth; and the Legends of Anglerre roleplaying game.

She’s writing Zero Point, a series of globe-spanning World War 2 adventures for the Achtung! Cthulhu RPG setting, published by Modiphius; the ‘Great Game’ campaign for the Steampunk Leagues of Adventure RPG from Triple Ace Games; and The Worm Within, the first Chronicles of Future Earth novel, to be published by Chaosium, Inc. in 2013.

She lives in a field in rural France, surrounded by numerous farmyard animals.

Setting:

Old Earth has seeded the stars in vast, slower-than-light ships, their crews frozen in stasis fields. They’ve formed colonies light years apart and have lost any commonality with the Core Worlds.

Faster-than-light (FTL) travel makes it possible for New Commonality of Humankind to re-discover these worlds colonized in the distant past. Starships spread out from Old Earth to contact the thousands of new worlds, but find that the colonies have lost all memory of Old Earth. The colonies, over the thousands of years, have evolved beyond recognition—some of their populations are no longer human.

The result of the contact of the old and new civilizations is chaos—fear, violence and resistance from the colonies. The men and women of SCI Force (secret agents, special forces and decidedly ‘black’ ops) help the lost Old Earth colonies integrate with the Commonality.

In this chaotic world, The Mindscape, a vast technological ‘shared consciousness’, links the citizens of the Commonality together. It stores the memories—and even personalities—of dead generations, and every Commonality citizen uses Mindscape Implants—direct neural connectors to the Mindscape, and the staggering powers of Technopsi.

Synthetic life forms with the personalities of dead heroes pilot sentient spaceships—the Mindjammers—to distant stars. The Mindjammers don’t just make FTL possible, they also preserve the fabric of Mindscape, and heroically hold the far-flung worlds together.

Plot:

The Solenine, a Cluster of four worlds, is in conflict after coming in contact with the Commonality. Thaddeus Clay, Jackson Stark, Max Proffitt and Lyra Da Luz, agents of SCI Force, are tasked to manage the conflict. They come across the Transmigration Heresy: the colony’s belief that uploaded personalities are in fact alive and have immortal souls. It’s a typical, mistaken belief of a technologically inferior civilization that encounters the Mindscape.

But, something strange is going on in the Cluster. As the SCI Force taps into the Solenine super AI, they find ‘erroneous mortality records’ of births and deaths. People who have died on a planet suddenly appear in the records of a hospital on another planet. They are not dead after all, or are they? But the Heresy isn’t true. So what is it that they find in a box? Is that consciousness? Is it alive?

What the SCI Force team discovers poses danger not only to the four planets of Solenine, but also threatens all human worlds tied together.

Review:

This is an action-packed space opera adventure—the very first page opens with an explosion. The exposition of the intensely futuristic world is woven deftly without interrupting the story. The visuals are vivid and the situations, intense. There are epic planet-destroying wars and magnificent galactic spanning ships. An innocuous problem compounds speedily into a threat on a galactic scale, yet it does make the SCI Force team look like typical beat-the-villain superheroes. The technologies of the far future—the gadgets, devices and the trans-humanism concepts—are an absolute delight. This is sci-fi meat.

I was only distracted in part three (The Battle of Tritane), where, halfway into the novel, Newton introduces some new characters. I wasn’t involved with or invested in them. The sudden appearance of General Ulgus and Lieutenant Kasha felt as if I had crossed a level in some RPG game and was now meeting a new team, with a new mission goal (not surprising, as this novel is based on one). The battle scenes in this section of the story though, were dizzying. There wasn’t a dull moment but I felt the flow of the story line meander a bit here.

This may not be character-heavy story (I felt more for the ship than for the crew), but it makes up for that in action and pace.
At one point, the character himself said something that I was thinking about:

‘You know what’s pissing me off about all this?’ snarled Stark, baring his teeth. ‘It’s that I’ve got no enemy. Nothing to aim at. Everyone’s a victim, everyone’s working for someone else. Who’s in charge, here, Clay? I need a name! I need someone to punch.’

I chuckled, because the plot is complex: there are AIs on the loose, a Corporacy with its dynamics, the Commonality and its causes, the Gentility sentience and its intensions, strange dealings of the Interpax, and the SCI Force itself wears a dark-ops garb.

I could not put the book down. The wining aspect of any book for me, though, is the feeling of a ‘mind-meld’ and Mindjammer delivered it full-on.

Long after I read the book, it left me tethered to the MindScape and cruising with the Mindjammer ships. This may not be the book for fantasy readers, but it’s an excellent one for sci-fi lovers.


 

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