Progeny (Progenitors III) – Dan Worth (2012)
Worth concludes his very impressive trilogy with this fairly massive tome. The Arkari have suffered a serious setback, both physically and psychologically by having had their technology subverted, following which they were routed by the inimical machine intelligences, the Shapers.
Admiral Haines has crashed on the jungle moon of Orinoco where he is soon captured.
The Nahabe, in their floating sarcophagi and giant spherical ships have joined the war against the Shapers.
The Arkari, Admiral Mentith, Katherine and Rekkid have been jumped through hyperspace 10,000 light years to a binary system hosting a Progenitor portal and two dead war-scarred planets.
The Progenitor AI and their Arkari ship have been damaged but it is assumed that they have been brought to this system for a reason.
Meanwhile, Admiral Chen is sent on a mission to reclaim a Shaper-held system, a mission that could alter the course of the war.
This is a fitting finale to Worth’s space opera trilogy. He manages, against the odds, to recreate that sense of wonder that older readers of SF, such as myself, had thought might never come again.
He has, in a sense, done the unthinkable and taken Space Opera back to its basics. The emphasis is very much on the characterisation here and the reader is not overwhelmed with the intricacies of quantum states and the value of pi in other universes. Certainly the big science is there, with wormholes, Dyson Spheres, fearsome artificial intelligences, antimatter bombs and the whole kit and caboodle of the SF arsenal, but it is artfully and intelligently employed.
There are sections where characters find themselves on a dead planet in a binary star system ten thousand light years from civilisation, exploring the ruins of a race which destroyed itself. Elsewhere there are space-battles which are as near to edge-of-the-seat white knuckle excitement as one can get.
By the time one gets to about eighty-five percent in, one begins to wonder how the author can pull all the narratives together without compromising the plot but he manages to do it with aplomb.
I find it very exciting that writers such as this can get their work out into the word via self-publishing. I suspect that this trilogy – rather like the work of supernatural detective author James Oswald – will be picked up by a ‘proper’ publisher if it has not been already since it truly deserves a wider audience.
It begs the question – What makes a good read? I am seldom snobbish about SF. It just has to make me keep reading, and if it creates a certain ‘mental flavour’ – for want of a better phrase – that stays in the mind then that for me is quality. I am as at home with JG Ballard, Greg Egan and Philip K Dick as I am with EE ‘Doc’ Smith, AE van Vogt and the Dumarest saga.
One could make the argument to the effect that self-published e-books are the new pulp fiction, which is after all where many of the saints of the SF pantheon got their first break.
Who is to say that a new generation of authors may not now arise from these humble digital seeds sown in the Amazon wilderness?