My life in outer space

Eternity’s End – Jeffrey A Carver (2000)

Eternity's End (Star Rigger, #6)

‘In the century since the devastating War of a Thousand Suns, humanity has stagnated, staying in the cocoon of the Centrist Worlds while the rapacious pirates of Golen Space prey on ships that venture too far into the interstellar flux. And starship Impris, lost in the war years, has become the stuff of legend – used by the pirates as bait, even as the Centrist authorities deny her existence.
Renwald Legroeder, escaped prisoner and star rigger pilot, has seen what the government doesn’t want anyone to see. Framed for treason he flees – to save himself and clear his name. he returns to the realm of the pirates to find the truth behind Impris… to unmask the conspiracy that cost him his freedom… to tear off the blinders that have kept humanity from fulfilling its destiny among the stars.
Between Legroeder and redemption lie the pirates’ vengeance, if he is caught – and the perils of the Deep Flux, where no man has dared to fly. But with the help of a beautiful pirate renegade named Tracy-Ace/Alfa, he risks everything to uncover the secrets that can restore his reputation – and change the future of humanity.’

Blurb from the 2001 Tor paperback edition

The first hundred pages of this book were, I am sure, trying to persuade me that I would hate it. It begins with the escape of Netrigger Renwald Legroeder from the space-pirates of Golen Space.
A netrigger is a pilot who links into a cybernetic interface in order to guide a ship through ‘The Flux’ which is – as far as I can gather – that which we have until now called hyperspace.
Renwald returns to the civilised worlds and finds himself unaccountably charged with endangering the ship from which he was originally kidnapped by the pirates.
The keenness of the authorities to commit Legroeder seem to be linked to the disappearance of the ‘ghost-ship’ Impris and Legroeder’s claim that the ship appeared just before the pirates did.
Legroeder is bailed by a friendly female lawyer, attacked, and flees to an asteroid run by the Narseil (an amphibian alien race who were originally blamed for the disappearance of Impris.
The only way for Legroeder to clear his name is to join a Narseil mission to infiltrate the pirates (and investigate their links with the Cyborg Kyber humans) in order to discover their location and the truth about the missing Impris.
Despite my initial qualms it is an enjoyable read, although it is little more than a swashbuckling tale of derring-do transferred to outer space. Carver (his face is on the inside back cover) seems like a nice bloke and has even provided his e-mail address, for which I applaud him.
On the negative side, the romantic episodes are a little clumsy and the aliens an easily be imagined as men in rubber suits borrowed from Star Trek for the afternoon.
Carver evidently has a large fan base however, as this was nominated for the 2002 Nebula Award running against some stiff competition, which seems to me rather like giving Jeffrey Archer the Booker Prize, narrowly pipping Danielle Steele to the post.
However I would recommend reading this book. It’s fast paced, it’s engrossing. It’s fun. But a Nebula nominated novel in the 21st century needs to have far more than this to even get within a light year of consideration. It’s old-fashioned Space Opera, and although there’s nothing wrong with that it lacks the excitement and sense of wonder that some of the original pulp novels can still produce.
I suspect that there is a certain section of the SF author community who are – consciously or unconsciously – overinfluenced by TV or movie SF. Admittedly there is always the lucrative possibility that one’s work might be optioned for a film or a series, as this must be a very real consideration for modern writers.. Benford’s ‘Artefact’ is a classic case of a bad novel which yearns to grow up into a bad film and this book, although not so cinematically structured, has the same feel to it.
All the aliens are bipedal, humanoid and speak English.
The Kyber are – to all intents and purposes – The Borg, or at least have their machine-interface culture.
There is also an unconscious arrogance in novels like these which stems – I suspect – from an exigent attitude ingrained within US society whereby Americans see little of interest beyond their own borders. Indeed, Carver implies – from what we see of the society of Faber Eridani – that colonised planets will – if not colonised by Americans – at least follow an American social and political ideal. The planet has an Attorney General and – apart from Legroeder’s olive skin – nothing to suggest there is any ethnic mix.

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