Reviewed by KJ Van Houten
First, I do NOT always review in series! I just seem to be on a series-reading trend at the moment. That’s a “very good thing” because it means the books are captivating me to the point where I don’t want to leave that ‘world’. But it makes it difficult to separate the books out for a proper one-book review, so please forgive me for yet another long, combined review!
The series is comprised of these four stories: 5,001 (a short story), Greyson’s Doom, Yesterday’s Legacy, and Promissory Note. While first in the series, 5,001 actually comes later chronologically, which is how I’m going to discuss the series.
The ‘world’ is The Endurance, a generational ship of colonists who have left Old Terra and are on their way to a new home referred to as Destination. The ship is led by a captain, but a lot of the ‘work’ of the ship is actually in the hands of an artificial intelligence system. The ship has been fitted with everything needed to sustain multiple generations of humans within a closed system.
The ship is divided into regions, some resemble crowded cities, some industrial areas, while others are parkland and farmland with scattered residences among living trees and plants to mimic Old Terra. There is a river, or water system, the motion of the ship creates gravity and the AI controls a day/night system of lighting.
People are born from artificial wombs and the AI selects people to serve as parents. There are limited general born in order the maintain a viable and supportable number of people on the ship, so becoming a parent is considered an honour, although everyone on board really work together to raise children properly. Upon reaching a certain age – about 14 – children are assigned a mentor and raised to work within certain occupations that support the ship.
Everyone is assigned a daily amount of rations and entitled to a certain number of energy credits which is used to ‘print’ or generate everything from food to clothes, tools, or items of interest. All waste or objects no longer wanted are recycled or added to the energy pool of the ship.
People are loosely divided into patricians and plebeians based on occupation, family, and where they live. Everyone comes together to enjoy tankball, however – a ball game played in special arenas where the ball and the arena or tank goes through various levels of gravity from 2 gs to zero-g. People become quite obsessive over the game, and I admit that I’d love to see it played for real!
People’s lives are mostly open to public view, as news, activities, and personal ‘blogs’ are freely available and widespread on the Forum, which I tend to think of as a system like Facebook on steroids. People can post anything, comment on anything, and debate over anything. Everyone’s lives is available for public view so this keeps people ‘honest’. The only thing missing is there don’t seem to be any pets on the ship, so no widespread photos of kittens or puppies.
Greyson’s Doom (ship years 210-219)
Greyson Durant is the newest captain of The Endurance. He has not been in the position for long, having taken over when his mentor stepped down. The story begins when Greyson is assigned a child to mentor. This is not as good news as it sounds, as there is only one captain, this means that the AI has calculated the odds that a new captain will be needed not far into the future – in other words, Greyson is going to die at a young age.
So it is with some resentment that he takes on the mentorship of Emmaline Victore, age 14. Problem is that Emmaline does not want to be captain! The first part of the story takes us through the challenges Greyson and Emmaline face as he tries to teach her how to be a captain through challenging her at every turn while she tries to resist but finds herself not able to resist answering those challenges.
Years pass. Emmaline has grown into an adult and gets assigned to work on the Bridge staff until Greyson is to meet his predicted fate. Somewhere along the way, Greyson and Emmaline fall in love. But Greyson’s fate comes all too soon when a mysterious flu-like infection sweeps over the ship. Emmaline is forced to take over the captaincy while adding her efforts to keep Greyson and the rest of the people on the ship alive. I won’t say how that ends, but it’s an interesting twist!
Yesterday’s Legacy (ship year 313)
Marlow Fitzgerald is in charge of the civil guard on board The Endurance. When there is an incident at a tankball game, her path crosses that of Jonah Solomon, a radical free-thinker who has taken the unusual path of being raised a patrician to not having an occupation. He has gone through several, and lived in several districts on the ship, so he has a unique perspective, seeing life through the eyes of both patricians and plebeians. He has become quite popular writing essays on the Forum, and has managed to supplement the basic rations by bartering stories for goods.
In the current ship environment, there is a lot of unhappiness as rations are cut, and the captain and Bridge crew have made decisions that the populace is unhappy with. Unrest grows steadily and Marlow and Jonah are caught in the middle of a complicated political game – literally as people become divided by which tankball teams they support, teams which divide along lines of patricians, plebeians, and Bridge crew. The games become opportunities for people on all sides to show their public support for or against others, which leads to rioting.
Somewhere in the midst of threats of mutiny, Marlow and Jonah find love. Jonah also discovers his true role on the ship, and Marlow discovers her own role is more complex than she thought.
Promissory Note (ship year 402)
Life on board The Endurance seems to have gotten a bit grittier. Especially for the average citizen, like socially popular engineer Laura Hyland, who has found herself in a position of needing an extension on a loan.
The loan was her apartment home in one of the crowded cities in exchange for growing produce on her rooftop for a local shopkeeper – a wily man who is a true master of bartering, which is the only economic system available as currency has no meaning on a ship where basic needs are provided for everyone through a system of rations and energy credits, as it has been since the day the ship launched its journey.
When she goes to ask for an extension, she discovers her promissory note was exchanged to Micah Thorn, a notoriously unpopular, unsocial man who makes a living coding systems to support the ship. Coding covers all of the systems, basically making improvements shipwide under direction of the AI. Micah offers a deal – if Laura will work on a research project for him on the side, he will consider it payment for her note.
Laura agrees, despite knowing that Micah is feared by most people for his constant scowl, rumours of revenge against those that anger him, and a mysterious past – very unusual as he must be the only person without a real presence on the Forum. Laura finds herself increasingly intrigued by both Micah and the research project he has her doing. Micah is similarly intrigued by the Laura, as she seems to be the only person that sees through his scowl and is also intelligent enough to grasp the theory he is trying to work out in his research. A project that turns out to have major implications for the future of everyone on The Endurance.
5,001 (ship year 735)
Caelen Williams, a master engineer, is called by the Bridge to investigate a serious problem – they are losing water. This should be impossible since the ship is a closed system and everything is recycled. The problem has been increasing over the past 17 years and if it continues, threatens the lives of everyone onboard. Caelen discovers that the data systems have somehow been manipulated to create this problem, but to learn who and why, she needs the help of Devar Todd, a former primary coder whom Caelen has a previous relationship with.
Devar no longer works as a coder, has become a bit of a recluse, because he was charged with game fraud surrounding tankball – roughly 17 years ago. Caelen and Devar have a theory that he was framed, around the same time the problems with the ship’s water system began. Is this a coincidence or is there something more going on?
The former lovers reconnect as they come to a startling conclusion, and must take risks to test their theory – a theory that will exonerate Devar while also having a MAJOR impact on the ship and the lives of the people on board. This short story ends with a revelation that I truly hope the author explores more fully in a later book!
I found the concept of life on a generational colonist ship fascinating, and the author does an amazing job of showing how various systems – not just mechanical or physical, but social, economics, etc., function together. I felt like this would have been a fascinating project to have done back in my college days when I was taking a course in system dynamics as part of a futures studies program. I probably would have made a better grade if I could have used this series as an example and mapped out the various systems and how they worked together! The author does an excellent job of showing the ship as an enclosed system along all of the STEEPLED concepts we studied. (STEEPLED being a multi-perspective view of looking at a system through its component parts of social, technology, environment, economics, politics, legal, education, and demographics and how these parts influence each other.)
This series totally appealed to the futurist side of me as well as to the SF fan and the romantic inside. Yes, there is love and sex in this story, but not a lot of the latter, or at least it doesn’t seem like a lot, but I found myself so caught up in other aspects of the story that there may be more than I realize. I admit, this world is proving to be difficult to leave behind. I want to live in this world. I think I read there will be another book in the series coming out soon and I seriously hope that is correct! I’d pick this as one of those series that I want to never end! (Apologies to the author, I know writing does not work that way.)
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I love the closed environment and the societal questions it creates. I’ve read Greyson’s Doom and 5001, and have the other two on my TBR. I’ll probably review the first one, but oh, Yesterday’s Legacy sounds excellent!
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