Roboteer by Alex Lamb

October 14, 2017 - 7:09 am No Comments

ROBOTEER by Alex Lamb. Gollancz, London. £8.99 paperback. 426 pages. ISBN: 978-1-473-20609-0
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

There is a sub-set of science fiction which is Military SF and written by such exponents as David Weber and David Drake. I was once told that SF was Mills & Boon for boys (I converted that person by giving her Marge Piercy to read) and to a certain extent, that is what this kind of SF is. It is for readers who have a fascination for hardware and like to read about blowing things up.
Alex Lamb’s debut novel, Roboteer, is a well thought out, military space opera. In this very far future, Earth has succumbed to pollution and the mass of humanity lives mostly on the product of prote farms. The planet is united under the auspices of the Prophet of the Truist religion. Other faiths are tolerated but can never rise to ultimate status. As far as enlightenment is concerned, the clock has been turned back millennia. Girls are not educated and the mass humanity, the Followers are illiterate. Yet they are scooped up and sent to fight for their planet. The enemy are the Galateans. Initially human colonists, they have embraced genetic modification to compensate for lack of personnel and help terraform the colony worlds. By the decree of Earth’s spiritual leader this modification is an abomination in God’s eyes. Also there are no aliens. The reason for the war between the two factions is to wipe out the abominations and to acquire what is believed to be fertile worlds to feed Earth’s population. His Honesty the Prophet is mistaken on several counts.
The story is told from three points of view enabling the situation to be seen from both sides. Will is the Roboteer of the title. He is modified to be able to remotely control various aspects of the war ship including torpedoes and drones. He has a bit more initiative than the average roboteer but when he disobeys an order and saves his ship from destruction he is transferred to the Ariel. This has a six man crew and they are given a spy mission to try and find out where the new technology the Earthers have suddenly acquired comes from. Ira is the captain of the Ariel. The third view point character is the Earther scientist Gustav. The new suntap device is his project. He didn’t invent it. He acquired it from an alien artefact known as the Relic.
Ira is able to follow Gustav’s ship to the Relic but when they are discovered, the aliens hack Will’s mods and download information into him. Aliens do indeed exist and they are giving humanity a choice. It is up to Will to prove that humanity is not a disease that has to be wiped out.
The pace of this novel is relentless and the characters have to endure betrayal, despair and torture before a resolution is reached. For most readers, it will not matter that they are dumped into the middle of the action without any explanation as to how the situation has arisen. For Will and Ira, politics are for others, while Gustav finds politics thwarting him as he tries to do the best for his planet. These three are perhaps nobler examples of humanity and not enough space is given to the mistaken, politically ambitious or nasty characters that always exist in any society. These readers will not mind that the space ships can move between star systems at a tremendous rate or be able to visualise the technology. If they are fans of military SF, they will enjoy this.

 

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